Every time Oregon State punched Arizona this weekend, the Wildcats always punched back. They outlasted the Beavers 7-5 in a back-and-forth game on Sunday to complete the four-game series sweep.
Arizona didn’t trail Sunday like they did in previous games, but saw a 2-0 lead evaporate and a 6-2 lead get narrowed to 6-5 before freshman Allie Skaggs delivered the final blow with a solo homer in the fifth.
“I like to call us the comeback kids, especially this weekend,” said senior catcher Dejah Mulipola.
The Wildcats (18-5, 3-2) have now won four straight after losing three straight. The story of the weekend is that they scored 33 runs in four games after they had scored six in their previous five. And a lot of that damage was done against Mariah Mazon, a third-team All-American.
“We had to wake up the bats a little bit and I think this weekend was great,” Skaggs said. “You just saw balls were flying all over the park.”
Jessie Harper kicked off the scoring with a two-run double in the third and the Wildcats re-took the lead in the fourth when the Oregon State left fielder whiffed on a line drive by Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza.
Not only did the error dig the Beavers into a 3-2 hole, it put more traffic on the bases for Mulipola, who lined a three-run homer to right to break the game open.
For a few minutes, anyway.
Alyssa Denham was able to weave in and out of danger in the first two days of the series, but Oregon State delivered a pair of key two-out hits to keep Sunday’s game close.
First, it was a two-run bloop single that tied the game in the fourth. Then it was Mazon’s three-run homer in the fifth, which caught just enough wind to carry over the left-field fence.
Denham recovered nicely by retiring seven straight to seal the win. Candrea said he considered pulling her after Mazon’s homer because she looked tired and was leaving pitches up in the zone.
“You don’t want her to have to go through that if she’s not there,” Candrea said. “But then we talked to Dejah and Dejah just said, ‘I think she’s fine, just keep her in there,’ and that was a nice shot of confidence for us. It was good for her to battle through it.”
Candrea envisions a lot of Sunday games being high-scoring affairs. The new four-game series are tough on pitchers. Not only did Denham throw 238 pitches this weekend, the Beavers faced her three straight days, giving them a chance to make adjustments.
“We just have to be a little smarter with Denham and maybe try to get her out of some games a little bit earlier if we can, but you don’t always have that luxury,” Candrea said. “So this is where your conditioning and your mindset really comes into play and I really feel on Sundays that’s what it’s gonna be.”
Arizona now heads to Stanford for a four-game road series. The Cardinal have the second-best ERA in the Pac-12 and the Wildcats will have to prove they can score runs against quality pitching somewhere other than Hillenbrand Stadium.
“For some reason it’s different when you’re not in your own bed and don’t have your parents floating around and all the things that make you feel good,” Candrea said. “So I’m looking forward to a good practice on Tuesday and then get there on Wednesday, practice Wednesday night, and then play Thursday, Friday, Saturday.”
All-American second baseman Reyna Carranco (broken thumb) has started throwing again and should be back in Arizona’s lineup by the end of April.
“She looked good,” Candrea said Sunday. “We’re just waiting until she can grab a bat and start putting some pressure on that thumb. Throwing she can kind of get away with it because the thumb kinda sits underneath the ball. But when you’re hitting it’s a little different movement. So it’s just a matter of time. I’m hoping each week she gets a bit a little better and she’s going to need some practice to get back into it. You can’t just sit out for a month and walk right into the game and pick it up.”
Skaggs and Hanah Bowen have been starting in Carranco’s place.