Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza has a new name and a new position, but her swing is still sweet.
The reigning Pac-12 home-run queen had two hits and homered in her first at-bat, as No. 7 Arizona staved off No. 19 Michigan 2-1 on Friday in Tampa, Florida to open the 2019 season.
The Wildcats will face host USF in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader later in the evening, their second of five games in the USF Opening Weekend Invitational.
Starting in center field for the first time since 2017, Palomino-Cardoza led off the home half of the first with a dinger to right, giving the Wildcats an early lead which they did not relent.
Arizona extended its lead to 2-0 in the third when Missouri transfer Rylee Pierce, who now mans first base in place of Palomino-Cardoza, grounded into a 4-3 double play with the bases loaded, plating Jessie Harper from third.
That was enough offense for UA left-hander Taylor McQuillin, who allowed one run on four hits while striking out seven and walking two.
Michigan rallied in the sixth when No. 3 hitter Faith Canfield singled to left to pull the Wolverines within one, but McQuillin induced a groundout and popout to strand two runners and preserve the lead.
With the win, UA coach Mike Candrea narrowed the gap from nine wins to eight in his chase to become the NCAA’s all-time winningest head coach, a title currently held by Michigan’s Carol Hutchins.
It was a quiet game for Arizona offensively as it only mustered six hits and left eight on base. Junior catcher Dejah Mulipola singled twice and gunned down a runner in the third, showing why she is a member of the USA National Team.
The Wildcats threatened in the fifth inning, putting two on with one out, but Michigan right fielder Haley Hoogenraad made a diving catch off the bat of Pierce to save a run, if not two.
UA senior Hillary Edior, a converted catcher making her first start in right field, grounded out to end the inning.
Freshman Izzy Pacho, from Tucson’s Ironwood Ridge High School, got the start as Arizona’s designated player and went 0 for 2 with a strikeout in the No. 8 spot.
Arizona’s starting lineup looked like this:
- Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, CF
- Reyna Carranco, 2B
- Jessie Harper, SS
- Dejah Mulipola, C
- Malia Martinez, 3B
- Rylee Pierce, 1B
- Hillary Edior, RF
- Izzy Pacho, DP
- Ivy Davis, LF