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Alyssa Denham and Jessie Harper shine, but Team USA defeats Arizona softball

COLLEGE SOFTBALL: FEB 28 Drake at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was errors all around on Tuesday evening as Team USA staved off the Arizona Wildcats 5-4.

Although the occasion was festive as Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola returned to face the Wildcats as a member of Team USA, the fire was lacking on both sides for much of the contest. Then, Alyssa Denham entered the game in the top of the fourth.

Denham had her second career no-hitter on Sunday, and it seems to have instilled a great deal of confidence in the senior. After a game of errors—both physical and mental—by both teams, she came in and locked things down for the Wildcats. It was a boon on defense, but it was also a boost to the offensive mindset.

Denham came in with Team USA leading 5-0 in the top of the fourth and put up the first zero of the game for the Arizona pitching staff.

Jessie Harper led off the bottom of the inning with a towering shot over the left-center fence to put the Wildcats on the board. There was finally life in the Arizona dugout.

“(Jessie) was in our USA program for a few years and she’ll be another guy that will be in that program going forward,” Team USA head coach Ken Eriksen said. “Whether she plays shortstop, third, outfield, she’s such a great athlete and she carries a heavy barrel. So, for her tonight is special. But at the same time, remember, she doesn’t fear this type of stuff, because she’s played against it before and she’s worn USA.”

Legendary pitcher Cat Osterman followed up the Harper homerun by allowing a full count to Malia Martinez before finally getting her to ground out. Then, she walked freshman Sharlize Palacios and hit Marissa Schuld in the helmet.

Osterman got out of the inning without further damage. Heading into the fifth inning, Team USA continued to look less than sharp despite their 5-1 lead, though.

Denham returned to the circle to see if she could reproduce her success.

She did. After a lead-off single, she struck out two and induced a groundout from Mulipola to put up another clean inning.

Ally Carda came in to pitch for Osterman, and allowed the first two Arizona batters to reach. Then came Harper. Again.

A three-run homer to right field closed Team USA’s lead to a single run. Arizona would get two more on base with only one out, but were unable to push any more runs across.

Prior to Denham’s entry in the fourth inning, both teams appeared sluggish and unfocused.

Hanah Bowen got the start for the Wildcats, but gave up a three-run homer to allow the national team to take the lead before recording an out. She kept the damage to three runs, passing things off to her offense.

Reyna Carranco reached on an error by Team USA’s thirdbase Kelsey Stewart in the bottom of the first. Osterman got into the act, too, as she had an errant pitch slip out of her hand and end up behind the circle.

In short, neither team was especially sharp.

Team USA got out of the inning without giving up runs, but stayed discombobulated in the top of the second. The national team ran themselves out of the previous inning when Izzy Pacho gunned down Michelle Moultrie during a Bubba Nickles at-bat.

Instead of sending Nickles to the plate at the top of the second, Mulipola set up in the batter’s box. It should have been an out for batting out of order, but the call was not made. Instead, Mulipola reached first on a throwing error by Harper and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Ali Aguilar.

The national team would add one more run in the top of the third, but that was the end of their scoring.

Bowen took the loss for the Wildcats. When her evening ended, she had given up four runs on four hits and one base on balls in four innings. Three of the runs were earned.

Schuld gave up one earned run on three hits in one inning.

Denham walked one and gave up one hit in two innings. She struck out three of the eight batters she faced. She was followed by an equally impressive Mariah Lopez who allowed one hit and struck out two in two innings of work.

“I thought that was phenomenal,” Candrea said of his two senior pitchers and their leadership. “They’re in a good mindset right now walking into this week.”

In addition to Harper, four Wildcats had hits. Harper and Martinez both had multi-hit games for Arizona. Harper was responsible for all four runs batted in for the home team.

Osterman got the win for Team USA. She gave up one run and struck out eight in four innings of work.