It was supposed to be a tough series. Although the Arizona Wildcats had swept their two opening Pac-12 series, ASU had the No. 1 offense coming into Friday evening’s games.
Arizona was having none of that, shutting out the Sun Devils in all three games.
What went well over the weekend and what do the Wildcats need to improve on?
Seventeen innings. Zero runs surrendered. There’s not much to complain about in that.
“Right now, we’re pitching; we’re not throwing,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said.
The Wildcats used the rotation that carried them through last year, starting Taylor McQuillin in the first and third games and Alyssa Denham in the middle game. It worked like a charm.
Between the two, Arizona’s pitchers had a 0.706 WHIP for the series. A double in the third inning of Sunday’s game was the only extra-base hit given up all weekend.
The Sun Devils struggled to move runners, as well. No runners advanced past second base, and ASU had just five runners in scoring position all weekend.
In 12 innings pitched, McQuillin faced 43 batters. She sat down fifteen of those via the strike-out and walked three.
Denham only had to pitch five innings in her outing, throwing 95 pitches to 20 batters. She also gave up three walks, and fanned four.
Get On, Get Over, Get In
The Wildcats didn’t just outscore the Sun Devils. They absolutely buried the team from up north.
In 17 innings, Arizona scored 18 runs. While their six home runs played a prominent role in the Wildcat offense, the team didn’t rely entirely on the long ball.
As a team, Arizona hit .333 over the weekend with five hitting at least .375. Five different Wildcats also had an on-base percentage of .500. Seven of the ‘Cats regular line-up had at least two RBI.
Dejah Mulipola led the way for the team, hitting .600 and getting on base at a .750 clip. The junior catcher drove in five runs with three hits. She walked twice and was hit by a pitch. Her slugging percentage of 1.400 led the team by a huge margin.
When the team met the media last Wednesday, Denham brought up the improved team chemistry this season, saying that it just seemed different beginning when the team came together in the fall.
On Saturday, both Peanut Martinez and Candrea backed that up. Martinez referred to the team as “like sisters.”
“Most certainly,” Candrea said when asked if the chemistry was better this year. “I think it’s a tribute to our seniors, who have set the tone, (and) this very good junior class. But I think the big thing is the freshmen coming in have all got on board and have been all-in. For us to have that chemistry, they got to like one another, like being around one another.”
On Saturday, Candrea said that his only criticism of Denham’s pitching performance was the walks. In five innings, she struck out four and gave up just two hits, but she handed out three free passes.
It isn’t a new issue, and it doesn’t just affect Denham, but it is fairly consistent even in her best outings. In her no-hitter against the Oregon State Beavers on Mar. 24, Denham gave up four bases on balls in seven innings.
Of the primary starters, both Gina Snyder and Denham are well above the team average of .28 walks per inning pitched. Snyder puts .46 runners on base via the walk per inning pitched, while Denham has a walk rate of .38 per inning pitched. Only McQuillin, with her .23 walks per inning pitched, gives up fewer free passes than the team average.
Arizona’s defense has been a bit of a roller coaster this season. Until last week at Oregon State, they hadn’t committed a single error away from Hillenbrand, but they had 22 miscues in 17 home games. They misplayed the ball three times in Corvallis.
For the first two games against ASU, the Wildcats played clean defense—perhaps even superior defense. But the error bug did bite a little in the final game, when Malia Martinez committed a fielding error in the top of the fourth inning.
Candrea wasn’t concerned about it, saying that the ball just took a bad hop on Martinez. However, it is one of the few areas that Arizona needs to clean up.
The Wildcats now have 26 errors on the season. Twenty-three of those defensive miscues have come in 20 games at Hillenbrand.
The End of a Streak
Reyna Carranco had gotten a hit in every game stretching back almost a month. On Mar. 2, the Wildcats hosted Kent State, and their reliable No. 2 hitter started a 15-game hitting streak. Over that period, she hit .558 to bring her season average to .464.
On Sunday, that streak finally came to an end. Carranco went 0 for 2 on the day.
Even on a day when she didn’t get a hit and her batting average “dropped” to .455, Carranco still found a way to make things happen. The junior drew a walk, extending her streak of getting on base to 16 games.
She also made an appearance on SportsCenter’s Top 10 after making an incredible diving stop in Sunday’s series finale.
.@ArizonaSoftball's Reyna Carranco was No. 9 on SportsCenter's Top 10 pic.twitter.com/nA9eG5iu2n— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) April 1, 2019