The nation’s No. 1 offense was no match for Taylor McQuillin and the Hillenbrand Bombers.
No. 11 Arizona blasted three home runs and McQuillin blanked the vaunted Arizona State lineup Friday, as the Wildcats run-ruled the 18th-ranked Sun Devils 8-0 in five innings to begin the three-game series.
“It’s one of the biggest rivalries in college softball, so it’s pretty cool to go out and put on a show like our team did today,” McQuillin said. “Offensively, we only had four hits but three of them were huge.”
The Sun Devils entered the series as the top scoring and home-run-hitting team in the country by a wide margin, but were mystified by McQuillin, who fanned eight batters and only allowed two hits.
The senior left-hander carried a no-hitter into the fourth before ASU’s Skylar McCarty looped a one-out single into left. A fifth-inning infield single by Taylor Becerra was the only other blemish on McQuillin’s ledger.
McQuillin cruised through the Sun Devils’ lineup so effortlessly that the game ended less than 90 minutes after her first pitch.
“I think she knows what’s on the line coming into this series, so she’s just coming out and attacking these batters,” said UA catcher Dejah Mulipola. “They’re pretty much the same lineup (as last year), so she knows what she’s looking to throw.”
Friday, that meant a lot of changeups.
“She doesn’t love (that pitch) very much, but as a catcher I love it,” said Mulipola, who’s caught McQuillin since their travel ball days. “It throws the batters off. It’s one of my favorite pitches.”
Slowly but surely, it is becoming one of McQuillin’s favorite pitches too. She has only allowed one run in her last four starts, changing speeds more than ever before.
“The past two years since Coach (Taryne Mowatt)’s come in, she’s really helped get the pitch to where it needs to be and really go out there and trust it a little more,” McQuillin said. “And now I’m more confident than I was freshman and sophomore year. I think that comes with maturity too, but just knowing that I can go out there and throw any pitch in any count, that’s my mindset this year. I need to stick with it.”
Junior third baseman Malia Martinez started Arizona’s offensive flurry by launching a two-run homer to left in the second.
Fellow junior Mulipola clobbered a three-shot to left-center in the third — her 14th of the season — to make it 4-0, and two batters later T Statman lined a homer to right to plate Martinez, who had reached on a walk.
Arizona, which entered second in the nation in homers, drew three walks and a hit by pitch, setting the table for the power bats in the middle of the order.
Jessie Harper knocked in the game-winning run in the fifth with a sac fly to deep center, scoring Reyna Carranco, who tripled to lead off the frame, UA’s only base hit that did not leave the ballpark.
“Everyone was on all cylinders tonight,” McQuillin said.
That came as no surprise to UA head coach Mike Candrea, whose team has now won seven straight.
“This team has really good chemistry and they work hard,” he said. “My big thing with with this team has been keeping their minds free and being aggressive. Pretty simple solution, but it’s sometimes tough. And I think a lot of that has occurred because of our maturity. That junior class is a pretty good class. And I’ll match those top five, six hitters with anyone in the country.”
Arizona (25-7, 7-0) will look to clinch its fourth-straight series win over ASU (25-9, 5-2) on Saturday. Doing his best to keep a good thing going, Candrea delivered a short postgame speech to his players.
“That that’s what we need to do to that team,” Mulipola said.
Beer was sold in Hillenbrand Stadium for the first time ever Friday. Candrea said he had no input in that decision.
“No input and I guess it went well,” he smiled. “Unfortunately, it was a quick game, so they couldn’t consume too much.”
Beer sales will continue for the rest of the season, not that Arizona needed to draw more fans. Friday marked the sixth straight sellout at Hillenbrand.
The announced attendance was 2,852.
“The home field advantage means so much to us,” Mulipola said. “We love being at home. We love these fans.”
Here’s Mike Candrea after Arizona Softball’s 8-0 win over ASUPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, March 29, 2019