Alyssa Denham carried a perfect game into the fifth and five different Wildcats drove in a run as No. 4 Arizona cruised past Indiana 6-1 on Sunday to complete the Wildcat Invitational.
It is Arizona’s 10th straight win, improving to 21-3 on the season. They host Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday before opening conference play with a three-game home series vs. Oregon State on Friday.
“I think this team has competed well,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea. “We didn’t play an easy schedule, so we’ve had some challenges, and I think for the most part, we’ve played pretty good softball against those teams.”
Timely hitting has been Arizona’s Achilles’ heel to this point but it wasn’t an issue Sunday. Arizona plated four runs in the third, thanks to an RBI single by Jessie Harper, an RBI groundout by Malia Martinez, a sharp single by Hanah Bowen, and an RBI double by Izzy Pacho that clanged off the left-field wall.
“I feel like from the very beginning, it was just that one timely hit and so now I feel like we’re getting those timely hits and we’re putting together great at bats,” Denham said.
Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza added a run in the fourth with a homer to left and Bowen lifted a sacrifice fly in the fifth. The Wildcats logged eight hits, including four with runners in scoring position, off Indiana ace Emily Goodin, who entered with a 1.74 ERA.
“We’re still not where we need to be against good teams,” Candrea said. “I mean, we give away way too many at bats. Hitting is one of those things, it kind of comes and goes. The only thing you don’t want us is it to come and go with the entire team. So I thought for the most part to the top of our lineup did a pretty decent job. Alyssa (Palomino-Cardoza) did a good job, but I still think we give away at bats.
“You know, 2-0 count, you got a choice to sit on a pitch... and then you swing at a changeup. It’s like, ‘what are you thinking?’ So we got some progress. And I think once we get into conference play and see good pitching all the time, it helps.”
Arizona’s pitching was dominant over the weekend, allowing just five runs in four wins. Denham retired the first 13 batters she faced Sunday until surrendering a single up the middle with one out in the fifth.
That runner came around to score when a grounder skipped under the legs of Reyna Carranco, her first error of the season. Denham (9-1) bounced back by retiring four straight before being lifted for Marissa Schuld in the seventh.
“I was spinning the ball a lot,” said Denham, who had eight strikeouts. “I probably wasn’t throwing real hard. I probably topped out at 66, 67—which is still hard—but I was definitely spinning the ball and I was throwing a lot of off-speeds too.”
Denham also pounded the zone, throwing 61 of her 89 pitches for strikes, doing her best to keep Arizona’s bats from going cold.
“That’s just trying to be efficient,” she said. “I was trying to get out there and get right back as fast as I could. And they were aggressive, so they kind of allowed me to do that.”
Palacios on the mend
Candrea hopes starting catcher Sharlize Palacios can return in time for Tuesday’s tilt vs. Saint Joseph’s. The freshman has been out for a week after suffering a head/neck injury in a collision at home plate. Before that, she was hitting .324 with a homer and five RBI.
Pacho has been starting in her place.
“Izzy’s one of my favorites,” Denham said. “Her work ethic and her determination and her mindset and just really who she is, is what allows her to step in and be right there. Because she’s the one in the dugout working on her hands with a tennis ball when she’s not playing. She’s always working to improve, she’s always wanting to learn. We work really well together and she’s really just a great person, so I love seeing her succeed.”
Pacho, a power-hitting sophomore, is hitting .263 with a homer, four doubles, and three RBI. She had two doubles and three RBI in the Wildcat Invitational.
“I think she did a hell of a job,” Candrea said. “She’s a grinder. She’s a little bulldog and she loves to play and has fun playing the game and I thought she did a really nice job and I know she’s always ready, that’s for sure. So hopefully she’ll use that as a springboard and the big thing is just keep swinging the bat. Sometimes she gets a little wristy and doesn’t get through the ball. When she gets through the ball, she’s got a pretty nice swing.”
In case you were wondering, Candrea said infielder Ivy Davis is Arizona’s emergency catcher.
Here’s Mike Candrea after Arizona Softball’s win over IndianaPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, March 8, 2020
Here’s Alyssa Denham after Arizona Softball’s win over IndianaPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, March 8, 2020