Arizona could not get a timely hit all day until Ivy Davis ended those struggles — and the game — with one swing of the bat.
The freshman smacked an 0-2 pitch for a walk-off grand slam to cap a 9-1 run-rule victory over Oregon State, as Arizona completed the sweep of the visiting Beavers.
“We had a ton of baserunners on all game, so I was just trying to get base-hits, trying to keep that rhythm going,” Davis said. “I wasn’t trying to hit one out, but it worked.”
The Wildcats left 10 runners on base and had been 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Davis’s sixth-inning homer.
Yet, UA coach Mike Candrea liked the Wildcats’ approach at the plate. They tallied nine hits and walked eight times.
And even though Davis’s grand slam and Jessie Harper’s homer earlier in that inning were the only base hits to knock in a run, Arizona drew two bases-loaded walks and Davis hit a sacrifice fly.
“It was a good weekend,” Candrea said. “I thought we came out and did some good things, especially at the plate. I thought we had some good discipline at the plate, made some good adjustments, didn’t panic with two strikes. … But just overall we’re playing the game with some energy and some confidence and it makes a big difference.
“We had good pitching, played decent defense, so nothing to complain about but I’ll find something,” he joked.
It’s the sixth straight win for the Wildcats, who improve to 35-13 overall and 11-10 in the Pac-12.
UA left-hander Taylor McQuillin (21-9, 1.72 ERA) turned in another strong outing, allowing just one run on five hits over six innings. Oregon State’s only run came via a solo homer in the fourth.
McQuillin struck out eight and walked two.
Both those walks came in the fifth inning, which put the tying run at the plate for the Beavers with one out. But McQuillin snared a comebacker for the second out, then punched out Shelby Weeks for the third out.
The Beavers threatened in the sixth, too, using a leadoff single and an error by UA third baseman Malia Martinez to put the tying run at the plate with one out once again.
McQuillin fell behind 1-0 on the next batter, which led pitching coach Taryne Mowatt to trot out the circle to give her a chance to regroup.
It worked. The left-hander promptly struck out Missy Nunes for the second out, then induced a lazy flyout to right to escape another jam.
“Towards the end I started to fall behind in the count a lot,” McQuillin said. “... (Mowatt) just called timeout to let us know that everything was OK. ... It was a just a breather, take a moment to recoup, and let’s attack this batter and get her out.”
Taylor McQuillin pitched 6 innings of one-run ball in Arizona’s win vs. Oregon State.— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) April 29, 2018
She rocked the “space buns” Miley Cyrus look because UA won the first two games of the series: “Sun’s out, buns out” pic.twitter.com/GyWiiobpiz
Alyssa Denham was warming up in the bullpen, but a pitching change would not be necessary. Arizona scored five in the sixth to complete the run-rule.
Harper homered to lead off the inning, then Dejah Mulipola walked, Martinez reached on an error, and Joelle Krist singled to load the bases for Davis, who immediately unloaded them.
It was Davis’s fourth homer since becoming the team’s full-time designated player on April 15. Her five RBIs on Sunday were a career-high.
“Ivy stepped in at a really good time for us and starting having some good at-bats,” Candrea said. “I’m really pleased with her. She’s a kid that works hard and I think has got good skills and understands the game.
“She’s been around the game for a long time. The biggest thing she had to do is learn how to slow it down. And most freshmen do. They get out here and they’re making decisions when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hands instead of seeing the ball at the plate. So she’s going to get better, better, and better. She’s stepped in big for us.”
Candrea has been tinkering with Arizona’s lineup all season, so Davis’s approach has been to take things “day by day.”
“Everyone’s on their toes a lot, everyone’s ready to go all the time, so I think it’s really good because everyone’s in the game,” she said. “You never know for sure who’s going to be in the lineup so I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s fun to get out there and get to play.”
Krist had a blast, too. The junior was told early Sunday morning that she would be filling in for first baseman Alyssa Palomino, who sat out with a left knee strain.
Krist went 1-for-3 and drove in a run by drawing an eight-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the fourth to put UA up 4-1.
It was Krist’s first start since March 24 and just her eighth all season. Candrea went with Krist because “I see her everyday” and her experience in big games.
“I was surprised because I know Alyssa powers through her pain and plays really well, but I was also excited,” Krist said of seeing her name in the lineup card. “I got to get back in there and directly make an impact and help the team, so it was cool.”
Joelle Krist went 1-for-3 with an RBI in place of Alyssa Palomino in Arizona’s 9-1 win vs. Oregon State.— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) April 29, 2018
“Being able to make a direct impact was pretty fun,” she said. pic.twitter.com/XOgsV6Lkxp
As for Palomino, Candrea said she was out for “precautionary measures.” The redshirt sophomore, who is UA’s best hitter, has had two ACL tears since arriving at Arizona, and she wore a brace on her left leg Sunday.
“We decided to not play her today and give her some rest,” Candrea said. “So she’ll get a good four days rest. But that’s all it is.”
Arizona returns to action Saturday when it hosts a doubleheader against Grand Canyon. Candrea’s team has won eight of nine since snapping a six-game losing streak, so he was asked Sunday if they have righted the ship.
“Well, we had a buzzsaw right in the middle (of our schedule) and weren’t playing well during that time when those are the teams you really have to play well (against),” he said.
“I think after ASU, it kinda turned things around a little bit. I think the kids understand where they need to be to play at high level and we’re starting to grow up a little bit. It’s a young team, but it’s not an excuse. We’re learning how to prepare better and play better, and play with some confidence and not have so much worry.
“And I think the big thing is … I don’t really care win, lose, or draw. What I care about is how we’re playing. And so that’s kind of our bar and I think the ASU series allowed them to see what that looked like, what that felt like, and that’s something you can’t teach in practice. You have to go through it and I think that helped them understand how they need to play to play their best softball, so things are good.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire