TEMPE — Arizona softball passed its first major test with ease.
Alyssa Denham threw five scoreless innings, Ivy Davis drove in two runs, and the fifth-ranked Wildcats capitalized on a disastrous first inning by Tennessee to cruise to an 8-0 mercy-rule win over the 12th-ranked Volunteers.
The Wildcats went 5-0 in the Kajikawa Classic, though Sunday’s victory was their first over a ranked team.
“I think that just proves a lot, that we can come out against anybody...and we can put up a good fight,” Davis said. “We don’t really worry about the name on the other team’s jersey but we can fight no matter what.”
The Wildcats plated five runs in the first inning, taking advantage of four walks, a passed ball and two errors by Tennessee second baseman Cailin Hannon, who let two sharp grounders skip into the outfield to plate a pair of runs.
Davis recorded the only hit of the inning, grounding an RBI single up the middle to cap the scoring.
“I think that was super important for us to get the energy going right off the bat,” Davis said.
It had been lacking Saturday, prompting head coach Mike Candrea to light into his team after a 12-0 win over Western Michigan.
The energy “was really good tonight,” Candrea said. “They were all there.”
That early five-spot was plenty of run support for Denham, who allowed five hits and two walks while striking out four.
After making a diving catch in the first, freshman left fielder Bella Dayton made another heads up defensive play in the second, backing up an errant throw to second base and firing home to nab a runner at the plate.
Denham (2-0) helped herself out in the fourth, using every inch of her 6-foot-1 frame to snare a chopper and strand runners on the corners
It was a bounce-back performance for the right-hander, who permitted three runs in 4.1 innings in Friday’s win vs. Seattle.
“I thought she was spinning the ball really well,” Davis said. “She had a lot good pitches and even the hits they got were on good pitches by her. She wasn’t missing her spots.”
Davis added to the lead again in the fifth, singling through the left side to plate Hanah Bowen, who pinch ran for Marissa Schuld after she singled with one out in the frame.
That turned the lineup over for Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, who completed the run rule by drilling a two-run single up the middle, scoring Davis and Peanut Martinez, who also singled in the frame.
Altogether Arizona had six hits, all singles, with four coming from the bottom half of the lineup.
“They spotted us five runs, but I thought we’d swing the bat a little better,” Candrea said. “We got anxious at times and did not really cash in on their inability to demand the strike zone. It’s a good learning lesson for us, but it was nice to see the bottom of the order come through for us in the end.”
Arizona returns home next weekend for the Hillenbrand Invitational where it will host Long Beach State, Northern Iowa, Bryant, and No. 3 Oklahoma.
“It should be another good weekend, but like I say, every weekend’s a test,” Candrea said. “We feel good tonight but we need to do it again.”