So much for a heated rivalry. So much for Arizona State’s high-powered offense.
No. 11 Arizona run-ruled the 18th-ranked Sun Devils 8-0 in five innings Saturday for the second straight night, dominating in all facets.
The Wildcats outhit the Devils 10-2, blasted two homers, and played flawless defense as they captured their fourth straight series win over their in-state rivals.
“It starts in the circle and attacking the zone and our defense has been outstanding,” said UA right-hander Alyssa Denham.
Aside from a trio of walks and a pair of singles, Denham stymied an ASU offense that entered the series as the best in the nation.
Or, at least that’s what the numbers said. Through two games, the Sun Devils have yet to plate a run against the Wildcats. Taylor McQuillin tossed a shutout in Friday’s series opener.
“Our pitching staff is scary.” Denham said. “I’m serious. We have six people that can go out there and shut this team down and any team in the nation. It’s just scary that we did it back-to-back. And tomorrow we’re expecting the same thing.”
Arizona’s offense was led by some usual heroes — like Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza and Dejah Mulipola, who knocked in two runs apiece — but also by the bottom of the order.
No. 8 hitter Peanut Martinez clubbed her first career homer to give UA a six-run lead in the third. No. 6 hitter T Statman and No. 9 hitter Jenna Kean both singled and walked. No. 7 hitter Rylee Pierce drilled an RBI single to left in the first.
“6-7-8-9 were on fire and they were on base,” said UA coach Mike Candrea. “I’ve said it all along, when we have that many of them on base, we can score a lot of runs.”
ASU showed some life in the third when it drew a pair of walks. But Denham struck the next batter, before Pierce snared a frozen rope for the third out.
Knowing the magnitude of the moment, the UA first baseman let out a primal scream.
“She turned on that pitch and Rylee snagged it, and I knew she would because every pitch she comes up to me and she says, ‘hey, I got you,’” Denham said.
Arizona broke the game open from there. Martinez lined a two-run homer to right to make it 6-0, then Palomino-Cardoza blasted a two-run homer off the batter’s eye to make it 8-0.
ASU went down in order in the fourth, then Denham struck out the side in the fifth, finishing with four Ks on the night.
“I obviously want the strikeouts, but when they’re swinging at pitches I want them to swing at and getting themselves out, and then our defense is making the plays, it makes it a lot easier on me,” Denham said.
Martinez’s homer came on her 50th at-bat of the season. She’s not the strongest player on the team — hence the nickname Peanut — but knew the ball was leaving the yard once it left her bat.
“The first pitch she pitched me inside. That’s my pitch and I fouled it off, but that next pitch she came inside again, and I was ready for it,” Martinez said after the game, twirling her home run ball in her hand. “It felt really good.”
It felt even better when Martinez rounded third, slapped Candrea’s hand, and joined her teammates at home plate.
“This team has just come together and jelled as a whole,” Martinez said. “We have our bats and our defense, and our pitchers are doing great. We’re just putting it all together right now.”
Not just on the field, either. Candrea said this is his most cohesive team “in a while”, crediting a good mix of personalities, a tone-setting senior class, and freshmen who are willing to learn.
The Wildcats have won eight straight heading into Sunday’s series finale.
“We don’t have any drama,” Martinez said. “We’re all sisters. We play as one. That’s our biggest thing right now.”
Here’s Mike Candrea after Arizona Softball’s second straight 8-0 win over ASUPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, March 30, 2019