On a near perfect Wednesday afternoon, Arizona softball swept UTEP in a doubleheader to extend its winning streak to 11 games.
The Wildcats won game one 17-1, then beat the Miners 5-1 in game two.
The pair of midweek games gave Arizona’s bench a chance at gaining some more reps before conference play gets into full swing.
Freshman Marissa Schuld got the start in game one and pinched a near flawless four innings, allowing one run on four hits.
“I like the way she competes,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “I don’t think she has her best stuff yet, but she knows how to compete.”
Schuld, a two-time Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, was overshadowed by a prolific offensive outing by the Wildcats’ lineup.
In the bottom of the first, Jessie Harper hit a three-run homer to get Arizona on the board early.
From there, things got ugly.
Arizona dropped a 13 spot in the second inning. The Wildcats went through the batting order — twice.
Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza started the onslaught with an RBI double followed by an RBI single from Harper. Malia Martinez added to the scoring with a three run homer.
Palomino, in her second plate appearance, hit a grand slam to give her five RBIs in the inning. Martinez one-upped her teammate with a three-run double, amounting to six RBIs.
Joelle Krist concluded the second inning scoring with an RBI single.
Arizona’s 17th run came on an RBI single by-pinch hitter Izzy Pacho in the bottom of the third.
The game mercifully came to an end after five innings.
Game 2 featured a far more competitive pitching matchup.
Arizona went to Vanessa Foreman for the first four innings. Foreman allowed one run on six hits. Hanah Bowen closed the day out with three scoreless innings including four strikeouts.
The Wildcats couldn’t get a grip on UTEP starter Kira McKechnie for much of the afternoon.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second, Hillary Edior tied things with an RBI double. Edior later scored on a passed ball to give Arizona the lead.
Edior, who started game one behind the plate and game two in right field, entered with just 20 at-bats and two hits all season.
“You take advantage of your opportunities,” Edior said. “Even though I haven't been starting, you go up there with a plan.”
The senior has seen her playing time decrease as she’s gotten older, but Candrea praised her attitude in the dugout.
“She’s a vocal kid that I think knows how to say the right things,” Candrea said. “She leads us in practice at times. I’m just proud of who she is and what she represents. I thought today was really fun to watch her put some good at-bats together.”
The Wildcats broke things open in the fifth inning thanks to a home runs by Palomino and Harper. Harper’s two-run shot was her 19th long ball of the season, tied for the NCAA lead.
Arizona (27-7) now travels to Salt Lake City for a three-game weekend series against Utah. The Wildcats are off to a 9-0 start in conference play for just the fourth time ever.
The Utes are on an eight-game losing streak and went 2-21 in conference play last season. Nonetheless, Candrea stressed the difficulty of the series historically.
“Utah is a different place,” he said. “It’s a bigger field. Elevation. The weather’s not the perfect weather we’re used to having here. So it’s a mindset you have to have going in there.”
Here’s Mike Candrea after Arizona Softball’s doubleheader sweep of UTEPPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Senior C/RF Hillary Edior made a pair of rare starts Wednesday in @ArizonaSoftball’s doubleheader sweep of UTEP, and had three hits, three walks and an RBI: “It’s pretty cool. You (gotta) take advantage of your opportunities.” pic.twitter.com/b776WnXw8Z— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) April 4, 2019