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Peanut Martinez sparks Arizona softball in win over South Dakota

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Peanut Martinez was struggling early in the season, so head coach Mike Candrea suggested she start reading the book Heads Up Baseball to help her regain her confidence.

So she did, and all her studying is paying off.

The junior outfielder homered and laced an RBI double to lead No. 4 Arizona to a 9-1 win over South Dakota on Friday. Those were Martinez’s fourth and fifth extra-base hits in her last eight at-bats, raising her average to .194 after hitting .074 in her first 11 games.

“My biggest thing is knowing that you’re not going to be perfect,” she said. “I beat myself up all the time. I’m not gonna get it done every single time, but I think I’ve been getting back in the groove of things and I feel good.”

Martinez’s solo blast in the sixth, a rocket to right center, led off a five-run frame that allowed the Wildcats to complete the run-rule.

It also ignited what had been an anemic offense for most of the night. After a three-run first inning that featured a two-run homer by Jessie Harper and Martinez’s RBI double down the right field line, the Wildcats went cold, mustering just three hits from the second inning till the sixth.

That’s when they finally started to pull away. After Martinez’s solo shot, Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza crushed an RBI triple off the left-center wall and Malia Martinez notched her second RBI single of the night.

Arizona (18-3) plated two more runs in the frame, but both were unearned, the product of a shoddy South Dakota defense that made five errors.

For example: Martinez’s homer came after the South Dakota third baseman dropped a popup in foul territory.

“We just looked clueless at the plate,” Candrea said. “And I don’t know if it’s just the mindset’s not there, but sometimes we just get ourselves out because we’re just not ready to hit. We’re not ready to hunt a pitch and put a good swing on it, and then we took a long time making an adjustment with timing. We had nine quality at-bats this first time around. The second time around we had two. I expect more, but they finally woke up and got it done.”

But not before Mariah Lopez fired 92 pitches. The senior right-hander carried a perfect game into the fifth before it was broken up by a solo homer with two outs in the frame, the only batter she didn’t retire in six innings of work.

Ideally, someone else would have closed the game.

“We’re trying to work backwards a little,” Candrea said. “Start our starters and then when we get ahead, we can get someone else some work. But, shit, the way this offense is going right now, you can’t afford to do that.”

The frustrating part, Candrea said, is Arizona’s inconsistency. The Wildcats look great one game, then subpar the next. And, oddly, many of their weakest offensive performances have come against mid-major teams, the kind they should be knocking around early and often.

“I think sometimes we just don’t have enough adrenaline flowing. We play games like this and it bothers me,” he said. “It’s not that I haven’t seen it before, but I wish this team would play high-level softball all the time and take some pride in that because there’s no reason Mariah had to throw as many pitches as she threw tonight. They don’t quite understand that, but if you look down the season those innings add up. We’re a better team than that and we should have been able to put some runs on the board.”

Postgame interviews

Mike Candrea

Here’s Mike Candrea after Arizona’s 9-1 win over South Dakota. He was not happy with the offense.

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, March 6, 2020

Peanut Martinez

Here’s Peanut Martinez after Arizona Softball’s win over South Dakota. She had a homer and RBI double, continuing her hot streak

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, March 6, 2020

Mariah Lopez

Here’s Mariah Lopez after Arizona Softball’s win over South Dakota State. She carried a perfect game into the 5th.

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, March 6, 2020