One by one the sold-out crowd at Hillenbrand Stadium rose to their feet as Danielle O’Toole readied to throw an 0-2 pitch.
The left-hander had yet to surrender a hit, but it wasn’t until that moment, with two outs in the seventh inning, that she started to think about her no-hit bid.
“I was like ‘OK, I’m just going to throw it,’” O’Toole said, “and if she hits it that’s OK.’”
The 0-2 pitch was delivered, but it wasn’t hit.
Washington slugger Sis Bates swung and missed, and O’Toole’s first career no-hitter was in the books as No. 5 Arizona blanked No. 6 Washington 3-0 on Friday night in Tucson.
“Yeah, that’s my first one,” said the Wildcats’ ace, who’s thrown three career one-hitters. “I’ve gotten close, but it never really goes all the way through.”
Except this time. Against a top-10 Washington team, no less.
“Couldn’t happen to a better person,” head coach Mike Candrea said afterward. “She has really been a stable force for us and I can’t remember the last time [a no-hitter] happened in conference [play]. I’d have to go back and look whether it has, but it was quite a game at a big time for us.”
O’Toole faced two batters over the minimum and tallied eight strikeouts, as the Huskies’ offense, which entered with a .361 batting average, was powerless against the left-hander’s repertoire of pitches.
“She’s a competitor,” Candrea said. “I think [O’Toole] is a big-game pitcher and she loves challenges. And she’s very well-prepared and executed her gameplan really well and had them eating out of her hand.”
Arizona took a 2-0 in the first inning on a sac-fly by Alyssa Palomino and an RBI single by Mo Mercado, giving O’Toole all the run support she needed.
The Huskies put their first runner on base in the third when Taylor Van Zee drew a five-pitch walk. But, after Van Zee stole second a few pitches later (replay showed she was out), O’Toole struck out the next two batters to end the scoring threat.
“I just go at ‘em,” O’Toole said. “There’s really nothing else you can do after you walk somebody.”
UW’s second baserunner reached on a hit-by-pitch with two outs in the sixth inning. O’Toole induced a groundout to end that threat.
“They started to call some pitches and she was crossing them up,” Candrea said of O’Toole. “From there, it was like a steamroller that kept getting better and better and better.”
O’Toole, whose ERA lowered to 0.69 on the season, only needed 92 pitches (64 of which were strikes) to go the distance, improving her record to 15-1 on the season.
Arizona (30-1, 4-0 Pac-12) tallied nine hits in the ballgame and Tamara Statman launched an opposite-field homer to put UA up 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, providing one more insurance run for O’Toole.
The redshirt senior responded by striking out the side in the seventh to finish off the Huskies for good.
“Everyone was like ‘give me a hug. Give me a hug,’” O’Toole said of her teammates’ reaction. “It’s awesome that I have that type of support.”
As far as the key to O’Toole’s dominance, well, she didn’t really know what it was.
“I couldn’t tell you,” she said. “It’s kinda the way the ball moves and the way things work.
“I just threw.”
And threw pretty well, to say the least.
“She was in control all night,” Candrea said, “and that’s a very good hitting ballclub so that’s quite a challenge and I’m proud of her.”
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