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T Statman, Taylor McQuillin lead Arizona past Auburn, into Tucson Regional final

arizona-auburn-softball-recap-score-ncaa-tournament-tucson-regional-statman-mcquillin-bracket Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Taylor McQuillin tossed seven strong innings and T Statman came through with a two-run, pinch-hit single to lead the Arizona Wildcats to a 2-1 win over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday afternoon at Hillenbrand Stadium.

The Wildcats (44-12) advance to Sunday’s Tucson Regional Championship, needing just one more victory to push on to Super Regionals.

Pac-12 batting champion Reyna Carranco, serving as the designated player, returned from a broken hand to a standing ovation, then slapped two hits and scored on Statman’s RBI single, which broke a scoreless tie in the fourth after both teams squandered a few scoring chances early on.

“Well, that’s a big ballgame and my hat goes off to Taylor,” said UA coach Mike Candrea. “I think she’s definitely showed some maturity and is definitely ready for the challenge ahead of us. So I’m very excited about that. It was nice to get Reyna back in the lineup. As you can see, she hasn’t missed a beat, kinda made it look kind of easy. And what can I say about T Statman coming off the bench driving in two runs?”

Going against traditional wisdom, Candrea called on Statman, a lefty, to face Auburn left-hander Lexie Handley because of her patience and experience.

The single boosted Statman’s average to .571 (4 for 7) in pinch-hitting duty this season.

“What I’ve learned over the past four years is that there really isn’t a big difference between DP and pinch-hitting,” the senior said. “The only difference is that when you pinch hit, you see a lot of pitches from other people’s at-bats. So knowing that coach has the trust in me that I can go get it done and my teammates have my back, it’s just your first at-bat of the game and who says that you can’t get a hit?”

Rylee Pierce walked, Carranco singled and Hanah Bowen put down a sacrifice bunt to set the table for Statman’s heroics, as the Wildcats continue to show they can manufacture runs without the use of the long ball.

In fact, none of the seven runs Arizona has scored this postseason have come via homer, a stat that amused Candrea.

“If you understand postseason, you’re going to be facing really good pitching and you have to do the little things,” he said. “Some days you’re going to be hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but some days you got to fight like hell to move runners and put yourself in position. And there’s a lot more ways to score from third base than there is from second base.”

And sometimes putting runners on all the bases isn’t enough, as Auburn experienced in the third when it left the bases loaded.

After a mound visit from pitching coach Taryne Mowatt, McQuillin struck out No. 3 hitter Tannon Snow before getting cleanup hitter Kendall Veach to foul out.

“She just came out and reassured me that they’re not hitting rockets to the outfield, they’re just barely getting them through the infield,” McQuillin said. “So, especially in that part of Auburn’s lineup, we have to really attack the zone. And at that point she pretty much said I don’t need the ball to move, I need to hit a good spot so we can get an out here, and it just worked in our favor.

“But I think the the best part about it is the defense was relaxed the entire time, and it’s super exciting to see that in the postseason because I think earlier in the year, we’d get in jams like that and we would all get tense and tight.”

Auburn finally scratched a run off McQuillin in the seventh, when Bree Fornis lifted a solo homer off the batter’s eye. A single through the right side put the tying run on base, but McQuillin induced a popup for the final out.

The senior’s complete game came roughly 15 hours after she threw a one-hitter against Harvard on Friday. It was the first time all season she has started on consecutive days, but she looked solid in allowing six hits and two walks with five strikeouts.

“I can tell I’m getting a lot older,” McQuillin joked of her stamina. “I think I had a little bit of a better start than yesterday, but the defense today was the key for me, trusting them a lot more. ... Later in the innings, I was trying to get them to swing earlier in the count to limit the pitches that I’ve been throwing. But it was a close game, it was a great game, these are the types of games you’re going to see in the postseason.”

Postgame press conference

Hear what Mike Candrea, Reyna Carranco, Taylor McQuillin and T Statman had to say after Arizona Softball’s win over Auburn

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, May 18, 2019