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Arizona softball plays ‘complete game’, run-rules Oregon State to open series

It’s the Wildcats’ fourth straight victory

Photo courtesy Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics

Aleah Craighton and Dejah Mulipola homered, Taylor McQuillin threw a one-hit shutout, and No. 10 Arizona run-ruled Oregon State 9-0 in Friday’s series-opener at Hillenbrand Stadium.

It’s UA’s fourth straight win and third straight Pac-12 win. Seven different Wildcats had hits, and six drove in at least one run. No errors or base-running gaffes, either.

“It was just a really complete game,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea. “Taylor looked great, we got some key hits when we needed to, and they were singles which is nice to see. We’ll take it, but I know (Oregon State) will be right back at it tomorrow.”

Arizona (33-13, 9-10) led 2-0 after three innings, then exploded for seven runs in the fourth, and McQuillin tossed a flawless fifth to end the game after an hour and 15 minutes.

Craighton started the offensive flurry with a solo homer to left, then Alyssa Palomino, Jessie Harper, Malia Martinez, Craighton (again), and Ivy Davis had RBI base-hits to put the game out of reach.

That outburst came just one inning after the Wildcats failed to score with the bases loaded and nobody out.

“It was good to see that they’re growing a little bit in tough situations where they don’t succeed and they don’t let it get to them,” Candrea said. “They stay positive and get ready for the next inning and that’s what you have to do because that’s going to happen.”

Harper popped out with the bases loaded in the third, then Martinez and Mulipola struck out.

“Each game is a battle and one at-bat is not going to determine the next at-bat,” Harper said. “One inning isn’t going to determine the next inning.”

Craighton’s solo homer in the fifth was proof of that. In her first at-bat, she lifted a lazy fly ball to left. In her second at-bat, she ripped the same pitch into the left-field bleachers for her seventh homer of the season.

“The first at-bat, she stopped her swing and hits a fly ball and I just told her, ‘Aleah, on an inside pitch if you get your top hand through the damn ball’ and the next time she did,” Candrea said. “A little progress, but that’s part of the process and I’m very happy with the performance tonight.”

Oregon State (26-10, 7-9) had just two baserunners all game. One was quickly erased by a fourth-inning 5-4-3 double play.

McQuillin walked one and struck out two, inducing weak contact all night. It was the fourth solid outing in a row for the left-hander, who was struggling mightily during Arizona’s six-game losing streak earlier in the month.

McQuillin (21-9, 1.73 ERA) credited a new mindset for her recent surge.

“Knowing that my team supports me no matter what’s going on with my performance, they still have my back, and I know that I gotta go out there and still have theirs,” she said.

Candrea echoed that sentiment.

“A lot of positivity, not being negative,” he said of McQuillin’s new frame of mind. “Just different body language, and I love it. So hopefully this team is taking those steps that they need to. Like I told them, it’s not about wins and losses, it’s about how we play. Tonight we played hard and good things happened for us.”

Arizona benefitted from some sloppy Oregon State defense. Shortstop McKenna Arriola made three errors alone.

Two of them were throwing errors in the first inning, which plated UA’s first run. Mulipola’s solo homer in the second made it 2-0.

“Their shortstop had a tough night and we capitalized on it,” Candrea said. “At this level, that’s what happens — you give people four outs an inning, that’s usually going to come back to bite you.”

Game two of the series is Saturday at 6 p.m. Arizona can improve to .500 in the Pac-12 with a victory.

The Wildcats had an unimpressive win Wednesday against New Mexico, but Harper said Friday’s resounding victory has given them momentum “going into (Saturday)” and “for the rest of the Pac and hopefully Regionals and Super Regionals.”

“We should go in with the same confidence,” she said.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire