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Arizona softball has ‘ASU hangover’ in ugly win vs. New Mexico

The Wildcats won their third straight, but it was a disappointing performance

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

After an impressive series win at ASU last weekend, Arizona head coach Mike Candrea thought his team had turned the corner.

Wednesday night may have proved otherwise.

The Wildcats beat New Mexico 3-1 at Hillenbrand Stadium, but had four hits, made two errors, and were sloppy on the base-paths.

And all that honking they were doing in Tempe? Gone.

“Tonight we looked like we had an ASU hangover,” Candrea said. “The middle of our lineup was 0-for-12, we didn’t make good adjustments. It was an ugly game on our part and it’s disappointing because this game it’s so hard to gain the momentum, and I really felt that going through that ASU series that they kind of understood where they needed to be to play the game. Sometimes when you start looking ahead and you don’t respect your opponent that’s exactly what happens right there.”

Freshman Ivy Davis hit a two-run homer to give the Wildcats the lead in the second, but that was one of just two hits UA had through the first four innings.

New Mexico, which entered with a lousy 12-31 record, tallied more.

“We kinda lost the energy a little bit coming into this one, but definitely fought through it,” Davis said.

UA right-hander Alyssa Denham struck out 10 and allowed just one run (unearned) in a complete-game effort, but described her performance as “not my A-game.”

She walked four and surrendered five hits.

“I don’t think any of us are very happy,” Denham said. “It’s a win, but we have a standard that we want to achieve every single game, and we feel like we didn’t come out and achieve that standard.”

Denham weaved in and out of trouble all game.

There was a Lobo in scoring position in four different innings, but they couldn’t knock them in. New Mexico hit 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

Its lone run came in the fifth inning when a routine grounder clanked off the glove of UA third baseman Malia Martinez, allowing a runner to score from second.

Freshman Carli Campbell singled to start Arizona’s half of the fifth, but was doubled off at first after Jenna Kean’s line drive was snared by the third baseman.

“You gotta be seeing the ball off the bat,” Candrea said. “If the ball’s in the air, you freeze. That shouldn’t happen. It’s a young mind and the game is 90 percent mental, and mentally when you’re not ready to play then anyone can beat you. It’s a hard game to play when you try to approach it that way. We did a terrible job making adjustments, a terrible job playing defense, and a terrible job running the bases. We just looked like we were somewhere else.”

Denham walked the leadoff hitter in the sixth, and a two-out single would place runners on the corners, putting her under more pressure. But a lineout to left would end the inning.

“You just have to dig deep and get outs, depend on the defense, and know they’ll get the job done right behind me,” Denham said.

Arizona added an insurance run in the sixth when Aleah Craighton blooped an RBI single into center.

That provided some breathing room and the Wildcats would stave off New Mexico, but Candrea gave his team a tongue-lashing after the game.

“Obviously they don’t understand that the game doesn’t know the name on the jersey,” he said. “And when people come into Hillenbrand they’re going to give you their best shot. New Mexico beats us, it’s a season for them.

“And there’s a lot of teams that come in here like that. And that can run into postseason, into regionals. You have a first round game and you’re not ready to play, then you can be in for a tough one. So hopefully they’ll learn from it. Hopefully they’ll understand that today they didn’t do a very good job of preparing themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally for playing the game. And when you don’t do that the game can be very tough.”

Arizona (32-13) has won three straight, but Denham called Wednesday’s performance a “speed bump.”

“We got over it and now we’re cruising again and ready to mow down these next three games,” she said.

Arizona returns to the diamond Friday when it begins a home series against Oregon State.

The Beavers (26-19, 7-8 Pac-12) have lost two straight, but still find themselves ahead of the Wildcats (32-13, 8-10) in the conference standings.

Candrea is hoping his team has a bounce-back performance against a better opponent.

“Every game that you play should be a big game,” he said. “That’s what great teams do. Great teams play themselves. And so the standard that you set yourself is the standard that you have all the time no matter who you’re playing. So hopefully that’s a lesson for this group and they’ll learn from it. Because Oregon State will come in here and they’ll be ready to go. They’re a good team, they’ve played well this year, and we’re going to have to compete our butts off to take care of them.”


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire