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Malia Martinez, Mariah Lopez help Arizona softball survive scare vs. Seattle

Malia Martinez
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

TEMPE — It helps to have experience.

After Seattle skipped a two-run single into center to pull even in the fifth and threaten to upset No. 5 Arizona, the Wildcats’ seniors stayed calm and willed them to a 4-3 victory at Tempe Sports Complex.

Mariah Lopez pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in relief and Malia Martinez laced the game-winning RBI double in the seventh after Jessie Harper drew a walk and Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza bunted her over to second.

“This team found a way to win when they needed to, and that was Palomino’s sacrifice bunt,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea. “That was huge.”

And a little bit surprising since Harper and Palomino-Cardoza are usually known for their power. But whatever it takes, right?

“Jess’ at-bat was so long, that was amazing, and then Lyss putting down that sac bunt was just perfect, so I was trying to get something to the outfield or something in the gap to try to move her,” Martinez said.

The Redhawks, the designated home team and reigning WAC champions, put the tying run at second with one out in the seventh, but Lopez got two strikeouts to seal the win.

Seattle had trouble laying off her riseball after they saw a heavy diet of drop-balls from Alyssa Denham before chasing her from the game in the fifth after Ally Choate’s game-tying single.

“I think you learn a lot,” Candrea said. “Denham struggled a little bit and Mariah came in and I really thought it was a good change. Number one, the darkness and number two, going from the down ball to the ball up in the zone.”

Lopez entered with two on and one out in the fifth, inducing a flyout and strikeout to end the frame after intentionally walking No. 3 hitter Madison Cathcart.

“As a senior, I kind of know the drill already, and my biggest thing that I really work on is just my breathing and just keeping myself in the moment,” Lopez said. “I mean, it is a game but obviously you gotta be ready for it.”

Arizona was in control early, grabbing a 3-0 lead in the second thanks to a host of underclassmen. Sophomore Izzy Pacho roped an RBI double to right-center and scored when junior Hanah Bowen lined a single up the middle.

Freshman Janelle Meono capped the inning by looping a single into left to plate Peanut Martinez, her first career hit.

But the offense went cold from there, leaving 10 on base. The Wildcats fanned 10 times against Seattle left-hander Carley Nance, who pitched a complete game.

“I thought tonight we were overswinging a little bit,” Candrea said. “We weren’t seeing the riseball well. Of course, we weren’t seeing much. It was a little difficult.”

The Redhawks got on the board in the fourth when Cathcart clubbed a homer to right. Denham unraveled from there, allowing five of the next eight batters to reach base, a mix of walks and singles.

Candrea said Denham battled a migraine earlier in the week, which may have caused her to tire quicker than usual. She cruised through the first three innings, facing one over the minimum.

“I just think it was the perfect storm and we had a couple opportunities that were really close to putting a few more runs on the board,” Candrea said. “But yeah, like I told them, welcome to Division I, because everyone can play and everyone’s got pitching, and you’ve got to come out and you’ve got to execute the game. And we’ll get better at that. But it’s good to go through those and win.”

Lopez was credited with the victory, her second of the day. The Oklahoma transfer pitched five innings of one-run ball in a run-rule victory over Kansas earlier in the day.

Quite the start to her UA career.

“I will say the first inning was a little bit weird for me just because it was my first-ever time pitching with this team other than in scrimmages,” she said. “I’m a senior on a new team, so it was a really cool experience. I’m glad I got it out of the way and I’m ready for the rest of the season.”

Postgame interviews