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Arizona softball overcomes slow start, schedule change to beat BYU in another run-rule victory

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

BYU woke up a sleeping giant.

The Cougars grabbed the lead with a solo homer in the third, then felt the full wrath of Arizona’s offense. The Wildcats roared back with eight runs in the bottom of the frame, fueling an 11-3 win and their eighth mercy-rule victory in nine games.

Arizona also run-ruled BYU 12-0 on Friday, but that time they scored all their runs in the first inning.

“That’s softball,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “You can’t expect to score 12 runs every first inning. Sometimes we’re gonna have games like that.”

That Arizona got off to a slow start Saturday shouldn’t have been too surprising. They were scheduled to play Oregon State at noon and were even warming up to do so before news came out that a Colorado State player tested positive for COVID-19.

That forced the coaches in the Wildcat Invitational to reformat the weekend tournament. The Arizona-Oregon State game was pushed back to Sunday to replace UA’s matchup vs. Colorado State while a new game between Arizona and BYU was added for Saturday at 2 p.m.

Arizona players kicked around a hacky sack to kill the two-hour delay. Candrea filled out the lineup card and ate a turkey sandwich.

When the Wildcats and Cougars finally took the field, Arizona went hitless in the first two innings before exploding in the third. They scored again in the fourth and added two more runs in the sixth to complete the run-ruling, their 20th straight win dating back to last season.

“Coach always tells us in this game we have to be able to adjust and adapt so I think it’s a little bit different of a mentality when it comes to totally playing a different team but we were just trying to stay loose,” said third baseman Malia Martinez. “That’s kind of how the game is. You have your highs and your lows, so just not trying to worry about it too much and just, especially the hitters, doing our part, picking up our pitchers and really just try to get back.”

Arizona (9-0) has only surrendered seven earned runs in nine games, but five of them have been charged to senior Mariah Lopez, who has struggled keep the ball in the yard.

The riseball pitcher allowed two more homers Saturday—the solo shot in the third and a two-run bomb in the fourth—meaning she has now given up at least one long ball in all three starts this season.

The three earned runs Lopez yielded to the Cougars also tied her Arizona career high set last season against Florida.

“Sometimes you maybe try to be too careful and she’s just gotta get some confidence that she can commit to that pitch (the riseball) and throw it, and she’ll get good results,” Candrea said. “Sometimes we try to guide it and that’s when we start having some issues. But it’s part of the process. I’m not too concerned.”

Not when you have an offense like this. Saturday marked the sixth straight game Arizona has scored at least 10 runs. The third inning showed just how long this lineup is.

After three underclassmen set the table with a walk and two infield singles, super seniors Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza (two-run), Dejah Mulipola and Martinez each ripped RBI singles through the middle to give Arizona a 4-1 lead in the third.

Carlie Scupin plated them by launching a grand slam over the batter’s eye in center for her team-best fifth homer of the season and 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th RBI.

Candrea has been impressed by the freshman’s approach and calmness at the plate. Scupin said she noticed BYU’s pitcher was throwing inside to her teammates. So when the right-hander failed to hit the outside corner against Scupin, she figured an inside pitch was coming.

She was right.

“She’s really got a fabulous plate presence right now,” Candrea said. “If she can keep that going throughout the year, I’ll be a happy man. But she’s calm and she sees the ball well, she’s not too anxious. And like we talked about, if she gets the barrel on the ball you know good things are gonna happen for her because she’s so strong.”

So is Jessie Harper, who blasted her second homer of the season in as many games. Her sixth-inning solo blast—a deep drive to right field—was the 78th of her career, putting her 17 shy of the NCAA record.

Sharlize Palacios completed the run-ruling later in the inning by dumping an RBI double into the right field gap. The redshirt freshman, like so many other hitters in this lineup, is off to a torrid start, batting .385 with two homers and 10 RBI.

“A lot of times in this game it’s about how do you make adjustments the second time around, and so I was pleased that we found a way to put some runs on the board,” Candrea said. “And this team can put runs on very quickly as you see. Yeah, it wasn’t our best effort, but it wasn’t a bad effort.”

Up next

Arizona wraps up the Wildcat Invitational on Sunday at 11 a.m. MST against Oregon State. You can stream it live on Arizona Live Stream 2.

Postgame interviews

Mike Candrea

Mike Candrea post BYU

Hear what Coach Candrea said after Arizona's 11-3 win over BYU

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, February 27, 2021

Carlie Scupin

Carlie Scupin post BYU

Carlie Scupin crushed a grand slam in Arizona's 11-3 win over BYU

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, February 27, 2021

Malia Martinez

Malia Martinez post BYU

Malia Martinez went 2 for 3 with an RBI in Arizona's 11-3 win over BYU

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, February 27, 2021