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Arizona softball shut out by No. 22 UCF for first loss of season

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Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The Wildcats are mortal after all.

After bashing their way through the first half of non-conference play, No. 2 Arizona was shut out by No. 22 UCF 2-0 on Monday in Orlando for their first loss of the season.

It also ends UA’s 23-game winning streak, what was the longest in the country.

The Wildcats (12-1) could only muster three hits—all singles—and two walks off UCF No. 2 pitcher Gianna Mancha, who had nine strikeouts in a complete-game effort. The senior did a nice job locating and keeping the Wildcats off balance. Arizona entered the day with 10 run-rule victories in 12 games.

UA starter Alyssa Denham (6-1) was mostly good too, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out five. The senior faced trouble in the first inning when a walk, error and infield single loaded the bases. She walked in a run but limited the damaged by inducing an inning-ending groundout.

Denham then retired nine straight before a blip in the fifth. After she walked a pinch-hitter on four pitches, No. 2 hitter Georgia Blair poked a two-out RBI double over Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza’s head in center to give the Knights a two-run lead.

Palomino-Cardoza led off the sixth by working a walk but was promptly erased when Jessie Harper grounded into a double play. Dejah Mulipola then singled and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches but Malia Martinez grounded out to third to end the frame.

The Wildcats were retired in order in the seventh. Sharlize Palacios flew out to left, Carlie Scupin struck out swinging and Hanah Bowen flew out to shallow center. It was a microcosm of their poor day at the plate. They had trouble making contact against Mancha. When they did, it was usually weak contact.

Arizona will look to bounce back Wednesday when they visit Florida A&M before moving on to a three-game series vs. No. 16 Florida State starting Thursday in Tallahassee.