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Arizona softball notebook: On ‘Ole Miss-type things’, the Hillenbrand Stadium dirt, and more

Carli Campbell and Mo Mercado
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

It started out rough, but the Arizona Wildcats were able to pull out Game 1 of the Tucson Super Regional by beating the Ole Miss Rebels 5-2. Our full recap is available here.

Here are some other tidbits from the game.

One down, one to go

It may not have been pretty for either team. There were a total of four errors—three by Ole Miss and one by Arizona—leading to three unearned runs.

But now just one win away from the Women’s College World Series, Arizona will take runs any way it can get them.

“Yeah, one down,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea. “Get ready for tomorrow, I thought we came out early and traded punches with them, and I thought that their short game got us a little bit fast mentally the first couple of innings, but we settled down and got some key hits. I thought Taylor got stronger as the game went on. And so we’ll take it and get ready for tomorrow.”

Slowing the game down

Arizona came out of the dugout and immediately looked like this could be a long day. A leadoff single, a stolen base, a walk, a double steal, an error with two outs leading to a run, another stolen base, and another walk. It only led to one run, but it certainly didn’t look promising for the Wildcats.

“We just let the game get quick on us,” Arizona pitcher Taylor McQuillin said. “You know, they got the leadoff batter on and then they started running around and doing Ole Miss-type things. So, for us, it was just—I mean, for me, it was I need to keep them off the bases so we can keep this rolling.”

‘Ole Miss-type things’

And what are those “Ole Miss-type things”? Stolen bases. Lots and lots of stolen bases. They had attempted 101 stolen bases coming into the Super Regional, and made good on 81 of those attempts. In fact, Kylan Becker set the program single-season record with 34 after swiping two more on Friday, part of four steals for the Rebels.

“I saw on a little preview thing on Twitter that I was two stolen bases away and I was a little nervous because I know that Dejah (Mulipola) is pretty good catcher back there,” Becker said. “I got in the first inning and was like ‘Wow, okay, I’m pretty sure I just broke the record. That’s a way to start the first inning off.” So, hopefully I can get more and it’ll be fun.”

Big bombs? Who needs ‘em?

In the regional round, the Wildcats won two of their three games without hitting a home run, and they did it with different players stepping up. It wasn’t until the final game against Auburn that they were led by their usual power hitters.

The Super Regional started out much the same way, led by Malia Martinez’s 4-for-4 day.

“It’s knowing we have a whole roster full of talent and anyone at any moment can make big things happen,” Martinez said about the importance of winning in different ways and with different players stepping up. “So, it doesn’t always have to be a big bomb. Like today, a lot of it was played on the ground, which is huge for us. So just having faith in our players and knowing that everyone can do it.”

For the Rebels, it was a matter of seeing Arizona take a page from their playbook, according to Ole Miss head coach Mike Smith.

“I mean, I don’t know how many balls really were hit hard, deep or to the outfield,” Smith said. “Of the 12 hits, I’m going to say probably six or seven of them. More infield singles. So they kind of beat us at our own game. We just need to do a better job of fielding those ground balls and being a little bit more crisp.”

Ole Miss first baseman Abbey Latham said the infield dirt at Hillenbrand Stadium is different than what the Rebels are used to.

“Just because everything in the West is a little harder, faster,” she said. “I feel like we did a very good job containing our errors. I know we had a few mishaps but I never felt like it snowballed into something we couldn’t handle. I definitely feel like our infield will know what to expect tomorrow.”

Becker thinks Ole Miss hitters can better use the infield dirt to their advantage.

“I think in the first two innings we were putting a lot of pressure on them,” she said. “In those last couple innings we stopped putting it in play as much. We put the ball in the air too much. That ground is hard, it’s fast, and we’re a fast team. When we put pressure on teams, sometimes they can’t handle it.”

‘My little tanner’

The bottom of UA’s lineup continues to be an important component of the “everyone can do it” mindset, both for their ability to get on base and their will to compete.

Arizona’s 7-8-9 hitters combined for five hits, three runs and an RBI in Friday’s win.

“At this stage of the game, you have got to be solid one through nine, you have got to be able to produce one through nine,” Candrea said. “And I think Hanah Bowen has stepped in and had some really good at-bats. I think Peanut (Martinez) has been really good. And I think Carli Campbell—she’s my little tanner—she just loves to compete and loves to play the game. And it doesn’t look pretty, but she makes things happen.”

The Wildcats will see if they can keep the game from speeding up on them and punch their ticket to the Women’s College World Series on Saturday at 5 p.m. MST.