The Arizona Wildcats are headed to Super Regionals.
Propelled by a shutout from Taylor McQuillin and four RBIs by Mandie Perez, the Wildcats routed South Carolina 9-0 on Sunday to win the Tucson Regional.
“This is a very good team,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “I think we have all the pieces and all we got to do is go out and perform. And this weekend they performed.”
McQuillin (16-3) held the Gamecocks, the designated home team, to seven hits and tallied six strikeouts while walking one.
Perez launched a two-run homer to right in the third inning to break a scoreless tie and later hit a two-run single to put Arizona up 6-0 in the top of the sixth.
Candrea said Perez’s homer was a “senior moment.”
“As soon as I rounded second, I looked at him and he said ‘way to step up,’” said Perez, who hit two home runs in the regional after hitting just four in the regular season.
The UA left fielder finished 2 for 5 and her two-run blast accounted for the Wildcats’ only runs until the sixth inning when Arizona broke the game open with a four-run frame.
Arizona’s 7-8-9 hitters were the catalysts, hitting 8 for 9 with three RBIs, a walk, two stolen bases, and three runs scored.
“Mandie is our table-setter and did it again today with that home run. ... but really the bottom of the order is giving these guys a chance to drive in some runs,” Candrea said.
Second baseman Reyna Carranco was 3 for 3 with two RBIs, plus made a spectacular diving play in the fifth to prevent a lead-off single.
The freshman lined an RBI single to center to extend UA’s lead to 3-0 in the sixth, then drove in another run in the seventh.
Ashleigh Hughes was 3 for 4 with an RBI and Eva Watson was 2 for 2 with two runs scored.
Arizona outhit South Carolina 15-7, and 12 of its hits were singles.
“I don’t think anyone was expecting that from Arizona,” Candrea said. “I think they were looking for us to hit home runs and live and die by home runs, but this weekend we showed ourselves that we can score many different ways.”
Leading 6-0, the Wildcats tacked on three runs in the top of the seventh.
Dejah Mulipola hit an RBI single off the right field wall and Nancy Bowling hit a sacrifice fly in a pinch-hit appearance.
South Carolina had a few promising scoring chances in the early innings, but McQuillin was able to escape several jams.
A pair of singles put runners on the corners for the Gamecocks in the first inning, but McQuillin got a three-pitch strikeout to end the threat.
South Carolina put two runners on in the third inning, but McQuillin induced a popout to escape the jam.
Kamryn Watts grounded out to strand two runners in the fourth inning.
South Carolina hit 2 for 12 with runners on base as McQuillin notched her sixth shutout of the season.
“As the innings kept going on, my team kept producing, producing, producing and any pitcher that has nine runs put up on the board for them is gonna want to go out and shut it down for their team,” she said.
The Wildcats’ pitching staff did not allow a run all weekend, while the offense scored 25 times in the three games.
Arizona (51-7) will host No. 15 overall seed Baylor (45-12) in Super Regionals next weekend at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats beat the Bears 4-0 in Tucson on Feb. 11.
Baylor starter Gia Rodoni tossed consecutive no-hitters in the Waco Regional.
“I feel pretty good going into next week. We will matchup very well with Baylor,” Candrea said. “They’re a team that likes speed so they will match us in that regard. (They have) very aggressive baserunners and they threw a couple no-hitters so we’ll see.”
The best-of-three series begins Friday, May 26 and will run through Sunday (if a third game is necessary).
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