After a dispiriting loss to USF, Arizona bounced back in a big way in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, routing Illinois-Chicago 10-1 in five innings.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats (4-3) plated eight runs in the first inning, then two more in the third. That came after they were limited to five hits in a 4-1 loss to USF.
“It was nice to come out and score runs early. I was very proud of that,” said UA coach Mike Candrea. “But I’m looking forward to tomorrow because my big thing is we have to beat some good teams that are competitive. And tomorrow we’ll see Alabama and New Mexico, and New Mexico played Alabama very strongly.”
UA shortstop Jessie Harper homered and drove in four runs against UIC. Third baseman Malia Martinez homered and drove in three. Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, Reyna Carranco and Ivy Davis each had one RBI.
The Wildcats totaled nine hits, seven players tallying at least one. Harper’s two-run homer was her fourth of the season, tying Palomino-Cardoza for the Pac-12 lead. Harper went deep against USF, too.
UA righty Alyssa Denham got the nod and allowed one run in three innings, before being relieved by freshman Marissa Schuld, who struck out four in two flawless innings in her UA debut.
“I love Marissa. She’s a bulldog,” Candrea said of the 5-foot-3 hurler. “We wanted to put her in a situation that we could get her feet wet and tonight was a good example. Denham did a good job and gave us a chance to bring Marissa in and Marissa did a nice job shutting them down.”
The most surprising development of the day was Arizona’s defense — and not in a good way. The Wildcats committed two errors in both games, and the miscues against USF led to four unearned runs in a costly sixth-inning meltdown.
“The one thing that we did really well last week is we played solid defense,” Candrea said. “We looked calm and for some reason that one inning there…the game got quick on us.”
Candrea was not as surprised that Arizona’s bats were quiet against USF.
“Truthfully, I had a sense before we started the game that we weren’t as amped up as we should be to walk in here and play in this stadium,” he said. “We had a very mediocre batting practice and it just kind of carried into the game. We talked that they needed to find where they need to be to play their best softball and you have to be in a state of readiness. It’s competition. It’s a boxing match and you’ve got to throw the punches. We just didn’t do any of that.
“I thought we swung at pitches that were out of the zone and we just didn’t have a good command of the strike zone and the pitches that we could hit.”
While it is early in the season, Candrea said he expected his team to be playing at a higher level than it has been, citing the number of seasoned veterans on the roster. The Wildcats started six juniors, one senior and two sophomores against USF.
“So yeah, tomorrow will be a damn good test for us and we look forward to it,” he said.
Arizona is scheduled to face No. 7 Alabama (7-0) at 3:45 p.m. MST, then New Mexico (2-2) once that game concludes.
Here’s Mike Candrea after Arizona Softball lost to USF and beat Illinois-Chicago in Friday’s doubleheaderPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, February 15, 2019