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Arizona softball recap: Wildcats sweep doubleheader against GCU

Arizona is 34-1 on the season after taking two games from the Lopes

Alyssa Palomino stands in the batter’s box
Jason Bartel

The Arizona softball team extended its winning streak to 19 games on Wednesday, sweeping both games of a doubleheader against Grand Canyon at Hillenbrand Stadium.

The pair of victories improve the Wildcats’ record to 34-1 on the season, while the Antelopes fall to 25-11.

UA head coach Mike Candrea said he was concerned about the Wildcats having a “hangover” after they swept No. 6 Washington last weekend, but they were able to avoid it.

“[GCU is] a good little ballclub and I was concerned about a hangover to be honest with you after that weekend where we were hitting on all cylinders,” he said. “The last thing I wanted was to come out here and be a little flat. I thought we were a little flat to start the [first] game and we were flat in batting practice ... but we got through it.”

Here is how both games shook out:

Game 1 — No. 4 Arizona 6, GCU 2

Alyssa Palomino and Mandie Perez each drove in two runs and Danielle O’Toole went the distance as No. 4 Arizona beat GCU 6-2.

Palomino homered in the bottom of the first inning, then had an RBI double in the fourth inning. She was 2-for-3 in the game and her homer was her 10th of the season. Palomino holds the team lead in RBIs (41).

Perez was 2-for-4 and hit a two-run double in the second inning. Katiyana Mauga walked three times and added a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth.

O’Toole (17-1) logged seven innings, overcoming a shaky start to toss her 15th complete game of the season.

In the top of the first, the Antelopes put two runners on base before O’Toole escaped a jam.

O’Toole wasn’t as fortunate in the second inning as the Lopes knocked in a run on an RBI single by Kendsey Hill, scoring Tucson native Madelyn Dowdle, who doubled in the inning.

Hill’s RBI tied the game at 1-1, but the Wildcats immediately responded with three runs in the bottom half of the frame thanks to Perez’s two-run double and a throwing error by the Lopes, making it 4-1.

GCU scored its second — and final — run of the game in fourth when Dowdle doubled home a run.

From there, O’Toole pitched three clean innings to wrap up the ballgame, and Arizona added runs in the fourth inning and sixth inning with an RBI double by Palomino and a sacrifice fly by Mauga, respectively.

In total, O’Toole surrendered two runs, seven hits and two walks, raising ERA to 0.84 on the season.

The Lopes hit 2-for-14 with runners on base.

GCU starter Taylor Nowlin (13-5) also threw a complete game, but allowed six runs (four earned), six hits, and five walks with one strikeout.

The senior entered the game with a 2.81 ERA in 94.2 innings.

Game 2 — No. 4 Arizona 13, GCU 0

Led by an eight-run second inning, Arizona beat GCU 13-0 in five innings to complete the sweep of the visiting Antelopes.

Arizona had five hits and four walks in the second inning as eight different Wildcats crossed the plate.

Reyna Carranco started the scoring frenzy with a high chopping infield single that allowed Jessie Harper to score from third. Ashleigh Hughes then hit a sharp single to third to score Tamara Statman, followed by a two-run single by Dejah Mulipola.

The Wildcats weren’t done there.

Katiyana Mauga walked to bring home a run then Mo Mercado cleared the bases with a three-run double of the wall in left center to put UA up 8-0. Mercado was the only Wildcat who did not score in the inning.

Arizona continued its hot-hitting in the third with a two-run triple by Alyssa Palomino and a two-run homer by Mauga which easily cleared the fence in left-center field.

It was Mauga’s 78th career homer, putting her nine away from tying UA’s all-time home run record.

“That last at-bat was much-needed,” said Mauga, who was 1 for her last 11 at the plate entering Wednesday’s doubleheader.

Backup catcher Hillary Edior launched a homer too, making it a 13-0 ballgame. It was the first of her career.

In total, the Wildcats finished with nine hits, with Hughes having a game-high two base knocks.

UA left-hander Taylor McQuillin (11-0) threw four scoreless innings before being relieved by Michelle Floyd in the fifth.

McQuillin allowed four hits and notched five strikeouts, lowering her ERA to 0.74 on the season. She has not allowed a run in her last two outings, but hasn’t exactly been thrilled with her performance.

“I think I just kind of rolled in today, but that’s OK,” she said, with a laugh. “My team definitely had me offensively again and defensively, and it’s cool that they have my back when I don’t have it myself all the time. [But I’m] working through the little things, trying to find the pitches that work to get outs and I think that’s what we did today.”

Arizona has allowed just four runs in the last five games.

“I was concerned (about GCU), but what allows me to not be too concerned is our pitching staff,” Candrea said.

Arizona resumes conference play Friday when it starts a three-game series against Cal (21-8, 3-3 Pac-12) in Berkeley, Calif.

“That’s a good team and a big weekend for us,” Candrea said. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. I think the kids are in a good mindset.”

All three games will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire