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Arizona softball routs Western Michigan, but Mike Candrea wants ‘more fire’ heading into Tennessee game

arizona-wildcats-softball-western-michigan-broncos-kajikawa-asu-tempe-ncaa-candrea-tenneesee Photo by Ryan Kelapire

TEMPE — Five different players homered as No. 5 Arizona capped Saturday’s doubleheader with a 12-0 run-ruling of Western Michigan, but the score was an afterthought for Mike Candrea.

The longtime coach delivered a fiery speech after the game, questioning the Wildcats’ effort and togetherness as they prepare to face No. 12 Tennessee on Sunday, easily their best opponent to date.

“I mean, we’re kind of in the beginning of the year and our first test is coming up and I just kind of told them I want to see a little more fire, a little more sense of urgency,” he said. “I like this team, and we got a lot of people that can play, and so I think the key for us is going to be our ability to be unselfish because everyone’s going to get their opportunities.

“Some days you’re going to be hot. Some days, you’re gonna be not. But at the end of the day, you better be engaged because this team is bigger than any individual that’s out here, and I think once we start understanding the team, and what we can do for the team and take pressure off ourselves, and worry more about what we can do for the team, the better we’re going to be.”

Candrea thought his team’s complacency started to show Friday and carried over into Saturday. The Wildcats needed some late heroics from Malia Martinez and Mariah Lopez to squeak out a 4-3 win over Seattle on Friday night, not that long before they were back on the field to kick off Saturday’s doubleheader, which began with a close win over Portland State.

“I mean, it’s not often we have to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to play a game, but at the end of the day, it is what it is, and you’ve got to be prepared,” he said.

Senior Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, who started at first base then center field in Saturday’s doubleheader and homered in both games, agreed with Candrea’s postgame lecture, which lasted more than 10 minutes.

“I think there’s just some things that we need to work on together as a group,” she said. “On the field, we’re doing great. I think just as a team, we need to sit down and just kind of have a talk.”

Palomino-Cardoza declined to elaborate what the issues are, saying she wouldn’t categorize them that way.

“We’re fine, we’re playing great, and I think it’s not going to affect anything that’s going on,” she said. “We just have to continue playing the game.”

“But he’s right,” she added. “This team has a chance, and we’re gonna be really good.”

That’s the impression you’d get from the box score. The Wildcats mashed 14 hits (in just five innings) vs. Western Michigan, with 10 players recording at least one. Lopez (3-0) allowed one hit in four dominant innings before Marissa Schuld sealed the deal with a scoreless fifth.

Candrea made wholesale changes to the lineup in Saturday’s doubleheader, particularly at the bottom of the order where he started Schuld (DP), freshman Bella Dayton (LF), and junior Jenna Kean (RF) for the first time.

Schuld and Dayton had memorable days. After homering and doubling in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the first two hits of her career, Schuld went 1 for 3 against WMU and both of her outs were line drives hit on the nose.

Dayton, who hit eighth in Game 1 and first in Game 2, smacked her first career homer in the second inning, pulling a two-run shot to right-center to give the Wildcats a 6-0 cushion.

Junior Ivy Davis, who didn’t start in either game Saturday after starting both games at first base Friday, came off the bench to crush her first homer in two years in the fifth. Reyna Carranco and Jessie Harper went yard in the fourth, both continuing their red-hot starts.

Sophomore catcher Izzy Pacho keeps raking as well, picking up her sixth knock of the season—a sharp single off the right-field wall—but also showed her inexperience behind the plate when she mistakenly threw the ball down to first base after what she believed was a called third strike.

Candrea was noticeably distraught in the dugout.

“If you put on the uniform, you gotta be ready to go and I just want them to understand the sense of urgency that every game counts at this level,” he said.

Sunday should show if they have taken that message to heart.

“Tennessee is gonna be a good team,” Candrea said. “They’re very, very athletic, good pitching, and it’ll be a good test.”

Postgame interviews