Out of the 64 teams that qualified for the 2017 NCAA Softball Tournament, there was one team that didn’t allow a single run in Regional play.
That team? The Arizona Wildcats.
And it wasn’t like the old days where Arizona was able to ride one hot hand to the shutouts. This was the dual-threat of Danielle O’Toole and Taylor McQuillin.
Each appeared in two games, and each pitched their own shutout against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday and Sunday to send this team to yet another Super Regional.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of people that have the luxury of having two quality pitchers,” head coach Mike Candrea said after Sunday’s victory. “I thought it was big today for Taylor to take care of business in a big game, and I’ve seen her do it. She’s won at all levels.”
With O’Toole transferring to Arizona from San Diego State, both pitchers are in their second year of actually playing for the Wildcats, which has allowed them to grow together and reach this level of play as a duo.
“I think it’s kinda cool because I don’t think I’ve been on a pitching staff with a pitcher that’s older than me probably since my freshman year of high school,” McQuillin said of what it’s like to have the redshirt senior with her. “So last year coming in as a freshman, getting to work with someone who understood the game and had played it before, but also was new to the whole Pac-12 Conference because she redshirted the year before.”
“So we kinda had to work together and figure it out together,” continued McQuillin. “I think she came in here, took in her redshirt year, looked around and knew what she had to do, and I think she’s really helped out this team a lot and put us back to where we need to be has been really cool, but she’s a little weird.”
“She’s a good kind of weird. I think we work really well together.”
Part of that whole working well together thing is constant communication, even in the middle of a game with verbal and non-verbal cues.
“It could be a variety of things,” McQuillin explained about what the two of them talk about in between innings. “Sometimes it’s pitch location...how are the umpires doing and are you working well with them...and even little things like ‘Oh that pitch just slipped from you’.”
“It’s not just in between innings, but like looking at each other and saying like ‘Whoops’ or ‘That was good’, ‘adjust this’, or sometimes we’ll even look over and ask where that pitch looked to them on the sidelines,” McQuillin added. “I’ve also learned a strike zone from a whole new perspective because I’ve never really looked at it (from the dugout), so it’s pretty cool that we have good communication with our pitching staff as a whole.”
Despite finishing with the 7th-best ERA in the Pac-12 and the fourth-most strikeouts in the regular season, McQuillin says that she’s trying to reinvent herself as the postseason continues.
“I just wanted to recreate myself,” she said. “There’s video everywhere, ESPN comes out and does everything, and nobody’s going to not know who you are anymore. So I think that coming out...I wanted to attack, attack, attack, and that’s what I did.”
“But yeah, Danielle really takes control of things out there and that’s what I want to try to do because I think it’s really cool.”
If Arizona can run out two dominant pitchers that are taking complete control of the game, there’s no telling what this team could be capable of in the coming weeks.