The lights from UA’s Spring Fling glittered in the background of Hillenbrand Stadium on Friday night, but nobody at the carnival had more fun than the Arizona softball team.
Behind a 13-run first inning, No. 4 Arizona routed Stanford 20-1 in five innings, notching 17 hits and seven homers as it picked up its 23rd win in a row.
“It was just one of those nights,” said UA head coach Mike Candrea, whose team improved to 38-1 and 10-0 in conference play. “We saw the ball pretty big and cashed in and put a bunch of runs up.”
The Wildcats brought 16 batters to the plate in the first inning, tallying their 13 runs on nine hits, including five homers.
Jessie Harper hit two homers in the inning, while Dejah Mulipola, Mo Mercado, and Alyssa Palomino each had one of their own.
“I think that was pretty awesome for all of us,” Mercado said. “I don’t think any of us can say we’ve really been a part of an inning like that. It was magical.”
Mulipola’s homer put Arizona up 2-0, then three batters later Mercado hit a 3-run shot to give Arizona five runs in as many batters.
Palomino later hit a grand slam, and Harper rounded out the inning with a two-run homer.
“We kept hitting it hard,” said Harper, who had three RBIs. “I was so amazed with how many home runs we had. It was one after another, but it just shows how deep our lineup is.”
It was the second time this season Harper has homered twice in one inning, and she now leads the Pac-12 in home runs (14).
Meanwhile, Palomino was 2-for-2 with seven RBIs, and Mulipola and Mercado each finished with 3 RBIs.
In total, 11 different Wildcats registered in the hit column. Mandie Perez and Reyna Carranco each had two hits.
“I think that’s what makes this team so fun and special,” Palomino said. “We can come out and do that and keep the pressure on no matter what.”
Stanford starter Carolyn Lee allowed eight runs and was pulled before recording a single out.
“That’s a tough lineup when things go bad to look at,” Candrea said of UA’s offense. “It’s nonstop and then with the bottom of the order being as productive as they are right now, I feel good about this group.”
After its 13-run first inning, Arizona added five runs in the second thanks to a three-run triple by Palomino and a two-run homer by Katiyana Mauga.
It was Mauga’s 13th homer of the season and the 80th of her career, placing her seven homers shy of tying the UA’s all-time record.
“We just ran back in and ran back out,” Harper said of UA’s home run frenzy. “It’s so great.”
The Wildcats tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning when backup catcher Hillary Edior knocked a solo homer to left center and freshman Jaycee Lindley had a pinch-hit, RBI single up the middle.
“We all can hit balls that go pretty far,” Palomino said. “[Katiyana’s] ball, Hillary’s ball, it’s just crazy how sometimes the ball can jump off the bat like that where you know right off the bat [that it’s gone].”
18 Wildcats had plate appearances, as Candrea was able to clear the bench with UA possessing a sizable lead.
“When we have players come in off the bench and play in general, our whole dugout is hyped,” Mercado said. “You never know when someone is going to go down so for anybody to get opportunities whenever they can is huge.”
Danielle O’Toole (20-1) started for the Wildcats and tossed three scoreless innings before being replaced by Nancy Bowling.
Bowling pitched the final two innings, allowing one run via a solo homer in the top of the fifth.
Arizona and Stanford are back at it Saturday for the second game of the three-game series. First pitch at Hillenbrand Stadium is scheduled for 3 p.m. and it will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
The Wildcats will be going for their 24th win in a row.
“Do it again tomorrow. That’s the message,” Candrea said. “They’re in a good place right now and we just have to keep there.”
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