On a day when the Arizona Wildcats’ pitchers didn’t have their best stuff, a senior rose to the occasion.
Down to their final out, Malia Martinez blasted a three-run homer to lift the Wildcats to a 6-5 road victory over No. 8 Alabama, their second win over the Crimson Tide in as many days.
The comeback ended a rollercoaster ride that seemed destined for a Wildcat victory early in the game, but got derailed along the way, a shaky day in the circle being the culprit.
The idea that the Wildcats have a 1A and 1B in the circle instead of a 1-2 punch gained more credence Saturday. There was also more evidence that both pitchers struggle with many of the same issues, as they combined to give up eight hits and seven walks that turned into five earned runs.
Alyssa Denham got the call against the Crimson Tide on Saturday after Mariah Lopez pitched the Wildcats to a 2-1 victory on Friday. Lopez gave up seven hits and a walk in that outing, but was able to keep Alabama from capitalizing on those baserunners.
Denham scattered four hits over four innings on Saturday, but she also walked four and hit one. Her defense didn’t always help her, either, as they committed two crucial errors. It turned into two earned runs.
With walks becoming an issue, Arizona coach Mike Candrea lifted Denham at the beginning of the fifth inning. Lopez took the circle with the Wildcats leading 3-2. By the end of the sixth, she had given up three hits, three walks and three earned runs. Alabama led 5-3.
Star seniors Reyna Carranco and Jessie Harper led off Arizona’s half of the seventh but went down quietly. Someone else would have to spur the rally.
Those “someone elses” were Martinez and a pair of underclassmen. With two outs, freshman catcher Sharlize Palacios connected on a single. Then sophomore designated player Marissa Schuld stepped into the box and knocked an 0-2 pitch into right field for another single, setting the stage for Martinez’s heroics.
She took Lexi Kilfoyl’s first offering of the at-bat and deposited it over the center-field wall, erasing the deficit once and for all, though Alabama managed to make things interesting at the end.
After retiring the first batter in the seventh, Lopez allowed a long double to Savannah Woodard. The righty bounced back by slamming the door with a strikeout of Abby Doerr and a groundout off the bat of Alexis Mack.
Lopez got the win, but gave up four hits, three walks and three runs (all earned) in three innings. She struck out four of the 16 batters she faced. The outing raised her ERA from 1.05 to 1.66 on the season.