Dejah Mulipola homered and drove in four runs, and Taylor McQuillin threw her 12th shutout as No. 10 Arizona run-ruled Grand Canyon 8-0 on Sunday to complete the sweep.
The Wildcats (38-13, 11-10 Pac-12) have won nine straight. They will wrap up the regular season at Stanford next weekend.
“I think we came in and did what we needed to do,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea, who was pleased with UA’s overall performance.
Arizona certainly wasted no time getting ahead, plating three runs in the first inning.
Aleah Craighton ripped an RBI single up the middle, then Joelle Krist followed suit with a two-run knock.
Craighton drew a bases loaded walk in the second to make it 4-0, then Mulipola had a two-run homer in the fourth, and a walk-off, two-run single in the fifth.
Aside from a first-inning jam that was ended by an over-the-shoulder catch by shortstop Jessie Harper, McQuillin avoided danger all game.
“I thought we swung the bats well last night and today,” said Candrea, whose team finished with seven hits and outscored GCU 18-0 in the series. “I thought we made some good adjustments with the slower pitching, and that was our goal going into it — trying to change our timing mechanism so that we would be more on time. For the most part, I think we did a good job of that.”
It was Arizona’s final regular season home game, so its three seniors — Craighton, Ashleigh Hughes, and Robyn Porter — were commemorated after the game with a framed jersey, a bouquet of flowers, and a tribute video on the right-field scoreboard.
Their mothers threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Porter is a sparsely-used reserve and Hughes is nursing a broken left hand, but Candrea made sure to get them in the game. (Craighton started in center field as usual.)
Porter was given her seventh career start, batting eighth as the designated player. She lined a single to left in her third at-bat. UA’s dugout roared.
“She deserves it,” Hughes said. “She’s the teammate that everyone needs in her life. So I’m super happy for her.”
Porter, who entered with 24 career at-bats, said she was excited to see her name in the lineup.
“I’ve been working for it for four years,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that it happened now so it’s a really awesome moment for my family and myself. It was pretty awesome.”
Porter, a catcher, described her time at Arizona as challenging.
“But I’ll never be the same and I think it’s definitely changed me for the better,” she said. “It’s made me grow as a person and work through difficulty. I don’t think hardships in life will hit so hard before I’ve had to work through so many here.”
Hughes was summoned as a pinch-runner in the fourth inning. It was her first appearance since she suffered her injury on April 22.
“It felt good,” she said of her return. “Obviously I want to be playing, so it was exciting. It felt good to be out there with my team again.”
Hughes originally got injured on the base-paths, but wasn’t told to be overly cautious on Sunday.
“Coach knows I’m going to do what I’m going to do anyway,” she joked.
Candrea was just happy he was able to get Hughes — and all of his seniors — in the game.
“It was important to get all of them in,” he said. “The thrill for me was giving Robyn a start and watching Robyn get a base hit. To me as a coach, that’s worth everything. But, yeah, hopefully Ashleigh will be in many more games this year, and has had a great career.
“I wanted to get her in there someway somehow, but I didn’t want to hurt her, either. Hopefully she’s ready to go next week but we’ll see what happens.”
It was also Arizona’s final regular season home game at Hillenbrand Stadium before it gets remodeled this summer.
But the Wildcats are on track to host Regionals, and have an outside shot of hosting Super Regionals, so Candrea expects them to have at least a few more home games this year.
Still, the looming renovations produce mixed emotions for the longtime coach.
“It’s very well needed, but on the other hand, I’m very sad to see Old Hillenbrand go because it’s been so good to us,” Candrea said. “There’s lots of good memories, but they’ll be plenty of memories in the future so I’m excited about the future.
“I think it’s going to be a game-changer for us and for the fans. It’s kind of ironic today that it was 103 degrees. I’m sure if you put a thermometer in the bleachers, it’s gotta be 120. And to think people are going to be able to sit there and watch a game is awfully difficult. I’m always concerned that someone’s going to drop or those kind of things.
“So it’ll be nice to have better amenities, a lot more shade, and press box. Everything. It’s just going to be a really neat move for us.”
Palomino out of the lineup again
Arizona first baseman Alyssa Palomino sat out Sunday’s game, but it wasn’t because of her troublesome left knee.
The redshirt sophomore had food poisoning.
“That’s why she wasn’t here, so we can squash that bug before (injury) rumors get out,” Candrea said. “She’ll be fine.”
Krist started in Palomino’s place.
Candrea’s postgame interview
Here’s Mike Candrea’s interview after the Senior Day win vs. GCUPosted by Ryan Kelapire on Sunday, May 6, 2018
I would have had more postgame interviews, but my phone overheated. It was 101 degrees at first pitch.
You can enjoy these Senior Day tribute videos produced by the athletic department, though:
| "Ashleigh has been a fierce competitor. I'm most proud of her maturity over the last four years. To see her play like a senior right now is quite fun. I think Ashleigh has been a really good leader for us this year." - @CoachCandreaUA on @AshleighAnne__ pic.twitter.com/nvPQ78tPim— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) May 6, 2018
| "If I had to put a picture of what unselfishness was, of what a teammate was, I would put Robyn Porter's picture in the Lapan Center. She's given so much to this program, I can't thank her enough for what she's done." - @CoachCandreaUA on @McRobyn007 pic.twitter.com/DZKs7sGXSt— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) May 6, 2018
| "I really believe that Aleah has added to this program, to this family, to this university. I feel very blessed that I've had the chance to coach her for the last four or five months" - @CoachCandreaUA on @aleahcraighton pic.twitter.com/RrVXcCElIz— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) May 6, 2018