TEMPE — In their last first game, Arizona’s star-studded seniors showed why they’re so special.
Jessie Harper and Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza launched three-run homers and Oklahoma transfer Mariah Lopez tossed a complete game in her UA debut as No. 5 Arizona run-ruled Kansas 11-1 in five innings to open the 2020 season.
The Wildcats will complete the Friday doubleheader at 5 p.m. MST vs. Seattle, a better team than KU.
Harper, who led the NCAA with 29 homers last season, is now 25 long balls shy of tying Katiyana Mauga’s program record of 92. Her second-inning blast gave the Wildcats a 6-0 lead.
Fellow All-American Palomino-Cardoza, who hit 19 homers in 2019, walked the game off in the fifth with a no-doubter to center after Harper was pitched around.
Senior second baseman Reyna Carranco drove in two runs with an RBI groundout in the second and an RBI single up the middle in the fifth. Fellow upperclassman Malia Martinez lifted a sacrifice fly in the first and walked twice.
Freshman Janelle Meono became the first Wildcat freshman to lead off in her UA debut since Hallie Wilson in 2012. The speedy left fielder walked in her first at-bat and scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch. She also scored on Harper’s homer after reaching on a fielder’s choice.
Meono had a hiccup in the third, mishandling a single that allowed a pair of Jayhawks to advance into scoring position with one out. Lopez picked up her teammate by fanning the next two batters with riseballs.
The Wildcats made another defensive miscue in the fifth, when first baseman Ivy Davis, making her first-ever start at that position, could not corral a sharp grounder. When she did scoop it up, she tried to flip it to Carranco who came over to cover the bag, but it skipped past her, putting two more Jayhawks in scoring position.
Again, Lopez danced out of danger, inducing a groundout and foul out to escape the jam. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed four hits and one walk while striking out six, the lone blemish coming in the fourth when she surrendered a solo homer to Morgyn Wynne.
Kansas pitchers had trouble finding the zone, issuing eight free passes. Starter Lexy Mills was pulled for Hailey Reed after walking the first three batters she faced.
Two walks and a single loaded the bases for Peanut Martinez in the fourth, but she bounced out to end the frame.
Sophomore Izzy Pacho, filling in at catcher for Dejah Mulipola, clubbed a solo homer in the fifth, kickstarting a six-run inning that was capped by Palomino-Cardoza’s walk-off blast.
Pacho also laced a single to right in the second, showing an ability to go to the opposite field.