Alyssa Denham and Mariah Lopez are both on pace to set season-highs in innings pitched, and so far their arms are holding up well.
“All the hard work that we did in the fall, that’s why we did it, so that we can do what we’re doing right now,” Denham said.
Still, head coach Mike Candrea is worried about overusing them, knowing they will be needed for what they hope will be a long postseason run. Unfortunately, Arizona’s offense has given him no choice but to keep sending his aces to the circle.
The Wildcats needed six strong innings—and 92 pitches—from Lopez on Friday before it pulled away from South Dakota, then scored just two runs in a walk-off win over Boise State on Saturday, Denham throwing 102 pitches in a complete-game effort, many in high-leverage situations.
Lopez then got the start in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Only this time, the offense gave her a chance to rest.
The Wildcats turned in their best offensive outing of the season, routing Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 15-2 in just five innings. They had eight walks and nine hits, seven going for extra bases. Jessie Harper and Ivy Davis homered, while Harper and Malia Martinez each had multiple hits.
Interestingly, it was Hanah Bowen who ripped a two-run double to give UA a 4-1 lead in the first, the same Bowen who would relieve Lopez after the second inning and toss three scoreless frames, her longest outing of the season and just her third appearance in the circle.
Lopez and Denham have combined for 145.1 of Arizona’s 154 innings.
“Our whole staff, everybody’s ready to go, and I love seeing everybody get opportunities,” Denham said. “I want everybody to excel and exceed. I get really excited when Bo goes in, and shuts it out. That’s just fantastic.”
Arizona’s 15 runs were its most of the season and four more than it had scored in its previous two games combined. Most importantly, the Wildcats got timely hits, only leaving three runners on base.
That was a stark contrast from the Boise State game when Arizona left eight on base, stranding two runners in four different innings before Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza walked it off in the seventh with a homer to right.
If not for a dominant outing by Denham, the Wildcats easily could have lost.
Luckily, those are the games she lives for.
“I mean some games go like the first game and it’s a close game and some go like the second,” she said. “Our hitters are the best hitters in the country, so they’re always going to find a way. ... But my job is on the field and that’s why I chose the position I chose because I like the pressure and I want the pressure and I embrace it.”
Here’s ace Alyssa Denham after Arizona’s wins over Boise State and Southern Illinois-EdwardsvillePosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, March 7, 2020