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Arizona softball recap: Two late homers doom Wildcats as Oregon Ducks avoid sweep

The Wildcats couldn’t hold on to a one-run lead

Photo by Jason Bartel

Two sixth-inning homers lifted No. 6 Oregon to a 4-3 win over No. 3 Arizona on Sunday, allowing the Ducks to avoid the three-game sweep in Tucson.

“We came out hard, we came out like we were all weekend, battling it out,” said UA center fielder Alyssa Palomino, who was 2-for-3 with a homer. “We came up a little short, but we keep learning things in these games. We got the series, so I guess that’s something to be proud about.”

Danielle O’Toole (24-3) surrendered a pair of solo homers to Nikki Udria and Lauren Lindvall as the Ducks erased a 3-2 deficit.

O’Toole pitched 5 23 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits before being relieved by Taylor McQuillin after Lindvall’s go-ahead homer.

“I know the rest of the team tried, but it’s my responsibility to keep runs off the board and I didn’t do that,” O’Toole said afterward.

The Ducks faced O’Toole in all three games of the series.

“It’s like the ninth time through the order that I’ve seen them if you think about it,” O’Toole said. “And I gave [Udria] a fat pitch.

“I credit the home runs to them, but if I’m going to leave it up there, that’s on me. The only one that I think was a good pitch was to Lindvall and she hit an inside pitch going [to the opposite field]. I don’t know how she did it, but kudos to her for doing that.”

It’s the first time the Wildcats (45-4, 15-3 Pac-12) have lost at home this season, snapping a 25-game home winning streak.

“That’s the one thing that’s good about this game — it’s short-term memory,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “And you can’t wallow in it, you just have to keep moving.”

It was a day to forget defensively for Arizona, especially the third inning.

After Palomino’s homer put UA up 2-1 in the bottom of the second, UO’s Alexis Mack led off the third inning with an infield single and was able to advance to third on a Wildcat miscue after stealing second.

Arizona did not have anyone covering second as Mack darted from first, so Dejah Mulipola’s throw sailed into center field, allowing Mack to take the extra base.

Then, after Danica Mercado was hit by a pitch and stole second, a line drive off the bat of Jenna Lilley was snagged by UA second baseman Reyna Carranco, who threw to third to try to gun down Mack for the double play.

However, Carranco’s throw got past Katiyana Mauga, allowing Mack to score and tie the game at 2-2.

Carranco had Mercado hung out to dry between second and third, but tried to get the lead runner instead, which proved to be costly.

“We didn’t play a clean game,” Candrea said. “We made a couple mistakes and it put us in a situation where there was no room for error. And usually at this level when you get in games like this, the team that makes the most mistakes is gonna get beat and we made a couple errors.”

Even still, O’Toole prevented any further damage in the inning and Arizona took a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Carranco drove in Palomino from third with an infield single.

However, the Wildcats’ offense would stall from there as they did not tally a hit in the final three innings, finishing with six in total.

Megan Kleist (14-3) pitched a complete game for the Ducks, surrendering three earned runs while striking out three and walking three.

“Oregon’s pitcher is talented,” Candrea said. “She’s got a good off-speed pitch so that keeps you pretty honest. You can’t hardly sit on one thing. She had a good little dropball and a screwball that rode in our right-handed hitters.”

The Wildcats were unable to complete the sweep, but Candrea thought it was a “great series” for them and it should help them prepare for postseason play.

“That’s what you expect when you’re playing a top-five team,” he said. “It’s going to come down to the little things. They went our way the first couple days and today we just didn’t help ourselves out.”

Arizona returns to action Friday when it begins a three-game series against ASU at Hillenbrand Stadium.

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

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire