The Arizona softball team can’t win close games against tough opponents, you say?
Timely hits by Alyssa Palomino and Jessie Harper along with a strong outing by Taylor McQuillin propelled No. 13 Arizona to a 4-2 win against No. 8 ASU on Sunday in Tempe.
The Wildcats capture the series against their in-state rival and improve to 31-13 overall and 8-10 in the Pac-12.
Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, Palomino launched a go-ahead, two-run homer to left center, snapping an 0-for-9 slump.
But the Sun Devils would not go down quietly. Marisa Stankiewicz led off the bottom of the seventh with a game-tying homer to right center, which was immediately followed up by a double by Taylor Becerra.
Loud “ASU, ASU” chants permeated throughout the stadium, but McQuillin kept her composure and retired three straight Sun Devils to force extra innings.
Arizona left-fielder Carli Campbell legged out an infield single to begin extras, then Reyna Carranco and Palomino had back-to-back singles to load the bases for Harper, who roped a two-run single off the centerfield wall.
McQuillin gave up a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth, before fanning Bella Loomis for the final out.
The UA left-hander (20-9) allowed just six hits in eight innings, striking out 11. She outdueled Giselle “G” Juarez who surrendered four runs on eight hits in eight innings.
This is Arizona’s first road series win of the season. Prior to the ASU series, Arizona was winless on the road in Pac-12 play and losers of six straight conference games.
Arizona coach Mike Candrea had been critical of his team’s energy level in previous series, but that was no issue in Tempe.
Palomino hollered and pumped her fist as her go-ahead homer left her bat, Campbell roared with enthusiasm when she led off the eighth with an infield single, and check out McQuillin’s reaction after recording the final out:
Mike Candrea had been critical of Arizona's energy level in previous series. Safe to say it wasn't an issue Sunday. pic.twitter.com/YoS9Szp33T— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) April 23, 2018
While the Wildcats are still far behind UCLA, Oregon, and Washington in the Pac-12 standings, they are set up for a strong finish to the season.
Their last two conference series are against fifth-place Oregon State (at home) and last-place Stanford (on the road). They also have a game against New Mexico on Wednesday, and a three-game series against GCU later in the season.
So the worst is behind the Wildcats, and the best may be yet to come.
Arizona centerfielder Ashleigh Hughes exited in the sixth inning with a hand injury. She was hit by a pitch with one out in the inning, then stole second and scored on Palomino’s homer but did not play the field in the bottom half of the inning.
Aleah Craighton slid over from right field to take Hughes’ spot and Jenna Kean entered the game in Craighton’s spot in right.
What do you get after taking a series from your in-state rival?
The greatest meal on Earth.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire