Like Arizona softball fans everywhere, former UA ace Taylor McQuillin was excited when the Wildcats added Oklahoma transfer Mariah Lopez.
“I think that with the strong arms they have in the circle, I don’t see why Arizona won’t be at the World Series next year,” McQuillin said.
McQuillin and Lopez rose through the softball ranks together in Southern California. They were teammates on Mike Stith’s OC Batbusters team for three seasons and won two national championships.
So McQuillin knows what the Wildcats are getting in Lopez, a senior right-hander who went 19-1 in 2019, while ranking sixth nationally in hits allowed per seven innings (3.87), 11th in ERA (1.25) and 11th in strikeouts per seven innings (9.5).
“Mariah is a power pitcher,” McQuillin said. “She works hard corners, up in the zone. ... She has a good changeup too, so she’s an all-around pitcher. She can change from day to day. That’s the best thing about her, she’s really diverse in what she can do and what she can accomplish. But I think that she thrives off of the defense behind her, and I think the team is only going to boost her confidence more.”
McQuillin thinks Lopez and Alyssa Denham, who served as Arizona’s No. 2 starter in 2018 and 2019, will “complement each other very well” in the circle.
A tall right-hander, Denham saw a sharp uptick in her strikeout totals in 2019, but throws in the low-to-mid 60s, relying instead on movement and pinpoint command to succeed. The senior went 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA in 2019, helping the Wildcats post a 1.59 ERA, the fifth-best mark in the country.
Lopez’s ERA was slightly better than McQuillin’s, so her arrival means Arizona should be more than capable of replicating its success in the circle in 2020, especially if underclassmen like Hanah Bowen and Marissa Schuld—who both posted 0.48 ERAs in limited action in 2019—can continue to be reliable tertiary options.
“Obviously with the defense and hitting that they have to support them, it’s going to be great,” McQuillin said.