A dominant performance by a left-handed pitcher along with an offensive outburst is a common sight at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Only on Saturday it was the road team pulling it off.
ASU lefty Giselle Juarez tossed a complete game and the Sun Devils had three key extra-base hits, propelling them to a 5-2 road victory over No. 3 Arizona to even up the three-game series.
“That’s what we do to other teams,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said.
Juarez (6-4) allowed six hits and one walk while striking out seven. The freshman had a shutout going into the bottom of the sixth when Katiyana Mauga blasted a two-run homer to left to cut ASU’s lead to 5-2.
“You have to tip your hat to the pitcher,” Candrea said. “...She just had our number. It took us a while to figure it out. By the time we figured it out it was a little bit too late. We gave away a lot of at-bats tonight.”
Down by three in the seventh, singles by Tamara Statman and Ashleigh Hughes put the tying run at the plate for Arizona with one out, but the Wildcats couldn’t rally.
Mandie Perez grounded out sharply to first and Hillary Edior grounded out to second as Juarez was able to end UA’s comeback bid.
“She’s young and we didn’t make any adjustments as fast as we should have,” Hughes said of Juarez. “None of us have ever seen her before. She’s new. To us, we need to make adjustments a little bit quicker and be able to get on somebody like that.”
Juarez out-pitched Taylor McQuillin (15-2), who surrendered five runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks, while striking out 11.
McQuillin gave up a solo homer to Ulufa Leilua in the second inning for the game’s first run, then surrendered three more runs in the fourth.
With runners on first and second and two outs, ASU’s Nichole Chilson hit a towering drive to deep right field, which hit off the top of the wall after it was misplayed by Hughes.
Hughes initially broke to her right before drifting to her left, but could not recover in time to make the play.
“It was just moving and moving, so those are always kind of hard to catch,” Hughes said, adding that the wind was a factor. “It just got the best of me.”
After slamming off the wall, the ball rolled back toward the infield and Hughes collected it and fired an errant throw toward third base, allowing Chilson to score, giving ASU a commanding 4-0 lead.
“I think that ball should have been caught,” Candrea said. “That was a mistake that, with three runs in two outs, really changed the complexion of the game.
“Most of the time in big games like this, you can’t make defensive mistakes.”
It was a one-run game, until this happened! Flip on over to @Pac12Network to follow this one! #IgniteTheFight pic.twitter.com/ZN7cLPTBMn— Sun Devil Softball (@ASUSoftball) April 30, 2017
ASU wasn’t done as Marisa Stankiewicz homered off McQuillin in the sixth to extend its lead to 5-0 before Mauga’s two-run shot.
“They’re a good hitting team and I definitely think that I started to improve as the game went on, but obviously I fell short today,” McQuillin said.
McQuillin is 1-2 in her last three starts in conference play, allowing 16 earned runs in 16 innings in that span. Her ERA now sits at 1.70, despite it being 0.66 on April 9.
“It’s that time of the year right now where you’re not just going to out-talent people,” Candrea said. “You gotta outplay people and tonight we didn’t outplay them. Tomorrow we need to outplay them.”
Saturday’s loss was the Wildcats’ second home loss this season and they have dropped two of their last three games in total, falling to 46-5 overall and 16-4 in the Pac-12.
ASU improves to 28-15 and 7-10, respectively.
The rubber match is set for Sunday at 5 p.m. and it will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
“I just told the kids I don’t know if we came out hungry enough today,” Candrea said. “ASU is a good team and they come in here ready to fight and we better be ready to do the same.”
In the bottom of the first, a pitch from Juarez hit Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola in the mouth, forcing her to leave the game.
Mulipola was bleeding as she moved slowly with trainers to the dugout, but Candrea said the freshman is all right.
“She’ll be fine,” he said. “She got hit in the mouth. Nothing moved. She should be able to recoup from that.”
Edior was 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored in Mulipola’s place. Mulipola is hitting .350 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs this season.
Edior is batting .313 in 32 at-bats with two homers.
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