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Arizona beats Northwestern, 4-1, to open 2018 season

Alyssa Palomino hit a game-winning two-run homer to lift Arizona to its first victory of the year

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Alyssa Palomino sure didn’t waste any time re-establishing herself in Arizona’s lineup.

In her first game back from a torn ACL, the redshirt sophomore launched a game-winning two-run homer to lift the UA softball team to a 4-1 win over Northwestern in its season-opener on Friday in Tempe.

The sixth-inning, opposite-field drive broke a 1-1 tie. It was Palomino’s first hit, and just her third at-bat, since tearing her ACL just before the postseason last May.

She also made her first start at first base after transitioning from center field.

Northwestern would bring the tying run to the plate in the top of the seventh, but Taylor McQuillin (1-0) escaped the jam to pick up her first win of her junior season.

The left-hander tossed two scoreless innings in relief of sophomore right-hander Alyssa Denham.

Denham, a Louisiana-Lafayette transfer, got off to a shaky start but recovered nicely and pitched five innings, allowing just two hits, two walks, and an unearned run while striking out five in her Arizona debut.

Northwestern scored in the top of the first without a hit, thanks to an error, two walks, and a hit by pitch.

But Denham settled in from there, and Arizona tied the game in the third inning when Jessie Harper roped a single off the left field wall, scoring Reyna Carranco who had just doubled.

Carranco later drove in a run in the sixth to extend UA’s lead to 4-1. The sophomore second baseman was one of three Wildcats to have multiple hits.

Senior center fielder Ashleigh Hughes was 2-for-4 in the leadoff spot, while redshirt freshman left fielder Carli Campbell was 2-for-3 in her first career start.

Lousiana-Lafayette transfer Aleah Craighton was 1-for-3 with a double in her Arizona debut. The two-time All-American started in right field and batted fifth.

Arizona out-hit Northwestern, 9-3, though both teams wasted several scoring chances, as Arizona left nine runners on base and Northwestern stranded eight.

No. 7 Arizona returns to the diamond at 6 p.m. MST when it will face No. 24 Oklahoma State in the second game of a doubleheader as it continues the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.

That game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. McQuillin will likely start in the circle.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire