Peanut Martinez was the hero in her first-ever postseason appearance.
The sophomore outfielder drove in the tying- and game-winning runs as Arizona softball overcame a slow start to beat Harvard 5-1 in its Tucson Regional opener on Friday.
“Throughout the week, I was just working with the coaches, working on staying back, seeing the ball deep and that’s exactly what I did on both of those hits.” she said. “It was awesome.”
Martinez looped an RBI single into left to tie it at 1-all in the fourth inning, then lined an RBI single into center in the sixth to give the Wildcats their first lead and start an offensive avalanche.
After driving in the go-ahead run, Martinez scored on an RBI single by Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, Palomino-Cardoza scored on an RBI single by Malia Martinez, and Jessie Harper scored on an RBI single by Rylee Pierce.
Those timely hits capped what had otherwise been a frustrating offensive night for the Wildcats, who left 10 runners on base.
“Well, the first game of this tournament always is a tough one to get under your belt and my hat goes off to Harvard,” said UA coach Mike Candrea. “They played a very good game and it was a weird game for us because we had 13 hits but it just didn’t seem like it until that one inning. But at this time of the year, a win’s a win, and we’ll get ready for tomorrow.”
Arizona ace Taylor McQuillin only allowed one hit in a complete-game effort, a first-inning solo homer to Erin Lockhart.
The senior finished with four walks, eight strikeouts and a second-inning throwing error, settling in nicely after the early hiccups.
“It doesn’t matter who you play, when you leave a pitch over the plate, it’s gonna get hit hard, it’s gonna get hit far,” McQuillin said. “But for me it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. ... Obviously the first couple innings were a bit rough, couldn’t really find the zone, had some walks, had some hard hits. So it was just really coming back strong, but I have faith in my team to get on, get hits, score some runs. So I knew it was only a matter of time. My team’s always got my back.”
Other than Martinez’s RBI knocks, Hanah Bowen may have had the biggest hit of the game. The sophomore second baseman blasted a one-out double off the top of the right centerfield wall to set the table for Martinez’s fourth-inning RBI.
“Bo getting on base and then just keeping it simple,” Martinez said of the key to breaking the game open. “Scoring her, that was pretty much all I was trying to do there.”
Harvard ace Katie Duncan, a two-time Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, stymied the Wildcats for most of the night by inducing weak contact. 13 of her 18 outs came via groundout.
Even most of UA’s RBI singles bounced through the infield.
“That tells you that the Harvard pitcher was throwing a pretty good ball that was breaking down,” Candrea said. “I thought at times we were very impatient and we let the umpire kind of expand our hitting zone. And in those situations, you can’t. With two strikes you have to, but when you’re ahead in the count, you got to shrink the zone and get pitches that you can drive. And I don’t think we did a real good job of that until late.”
Speaking of late, the start of the game—originally scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MST—was pushed back about 50 minutes after the Auburn-Colorado State matchup took longer than expected.
Still, the Wildcats drew 2,468 fans and they only got louder as the game went deeper into the night.
“The only way that our fans are gonna get excited is if we do something on the field, and I’ve always told the kids that,” Candrea said. “And I thought our fans responded quite well tonight. It was fun at the beginning of the game to hear how loud they were. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that ... and I’m sure it was a long day for those fans too. Most of them were up two hours beyond their bedtime.”
Arizona will host Auburn on Saturday at 3 p.m. MST, with the winner advancing to the Regional Championship.
The Tigers outslugged the Rams in a 10-5 win Friday. When asked for his thoughts on Auburn, Candrea looked down at his watch, which read ‘11:53 p.m.’
“Right now I’m just concerned about Arizona,” he said. “I haven’t had much time to start thinking about Auburn.”
Postgame press conference
Mike Candrea, Peanut Martinez and Taylor McQuillin recap Arizona Softball’s 5-1 win over HarvardPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, May 17, 2019