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Arizona softball rebounds, beats Cal to win series

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The Wildcats get the first win after their 21-game winning streak came to an end.

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

It was their last series ever at Levine-Fricke Field and Senior Day for the California Golden Bears. After ending the 21-game winning streak of No. 5 Arizona on Saturday, they hoped to be the first Pac-12 team to hand the Wildcats a series loss this season. Instead, the ‘Cats bounced back with a 4-1 victory on Sunday.

Taylor McQuillin went the distance for Arizona, giving up one run on seven hits and zero walks over seven innings. She struck out eight of the 28 batters she faced on 86 total pitches.

Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza gave Arizona the lead in the fifth inning with a two-RBI double. The next inning, Rylee Pierce gave the Wildcats the extra lift they needed with a two-run shot. The insurance runs came off the first baseman’s sixth round-tripper of the year.

Palomino-Cardoza and Pierce joined Reyna Carranco and Peanut Martinez with two-hit games. T Statman, Joelle Krist and Carli Campbell each had one-hit games for the Wildcats, who had 11 hits and two walks after getting only two hits (and seven walks) on Saturday.

Over their first five Pac-12 series, the Wildcats outscored their opposition by a total of 143-14 to go a perfect 15-0. They run ruled their foes in 10 of those 15 contests, playing more than five innings just six times.

Cal proved that the name on the jersey and the record don’t always tell the tale, though. The Golden Bears were the first conference opponent not to get run ruled at least once by the Wildcats. They also held the Arizona bats to 3.3 runs per game—including a nine-inning shutout—over the series.

In fact, the Bears looked like they might be the first league opponent to take a series off the ‘Cats in the early going of Sunday’s game. Lindsay Rood led off the bottom of the first with a double. Two batters later, Lauren Espalin advanced Rood to third with a one-out single, and Makena Smith put Espalin in scoring position with a groundout.

With two outs, McQuillin gave up the RBI single to Karlee Sparacino, but the Bears opted to hold Espalin at third. It would turn out to be their only run of the day. Just as in McQuillin’s start on Friday afternoon, Cal needed to take the early opportunities against Arizona’s ace, because they would get few as the game wore on.

Not scoring against McQuillin wouldn’t necessarily doom the Golden Bears, though. They were able to lean on their pitcher on Saturday in the 1-0 victory over Arizona. Why not do it again?

It seemed like a distinct possibility when the Wildcats struggled to get anything going over the first several innings. The Wildcats got only two hits and a walk in the first four. Three strike-outs and four pop-outs signified the Arizona futility.

Good teams never give up, though, and the Wildcats showed that in the fifth. Pierce and P. Martinez led off the inning with back-to-back singles, then were sacrificed over on Campbell’s bunt.

Palomino-Cardoza broke through the 17.2-inning scoring drought for Arizona, which stretched back to one out in the top of the third on Friday. Her two-RBI double put the Wildcats on top by a score of 2-1.

Carranco gave Arizona another opportunity when she moved Palomino-Cardoza to third on a one-out single. A strike-out by Jessie Harper and a fly-out by Dejah Mulipola ended that threat.

The Wildcats came out still hot in the top of the fifth. Statman got a one-out single. With Riley Kuderca pinch running for Statman, Pierce knocked her in with a two-run homer to put Arizona up 4-1.

When P. Martinez singled in the next at-bat, it was the end of the day for Cal senior Zoe Conley, who was pitching in what was likely the final home game of her career.

Arizona loaded the bases for Carranco and Harper, but neither was able to add on to the lead.

Cal got two on with two out in the bottom of the seventh, but were unable to do additional damage to McQuillin. The loss dropped them to 26-25 overall and 4-17 in the Pac-12.

Arizona (40-8, 17-1) will return home next week to face the No. 4 Washington Huskies. First pitch is on Friday at 5 p.m. MST. All three games of that series will air on the Pac-12 Networks.