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Arizona softball sweeps doubleheader vs. GCU before big ASU series

COLLEGE SOFTBALL: FEB 18 USA AT ARIZONA Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 8 Arizona run-ruled GCU 8-0 in both games of Wednesday’s doubleheader, doing what it should do against a WAC team.

“I wasn’t overly pleased with the way we played,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “We didn’t have any sense of urgency, but we’ve got 48 hours to kind of get tuned up and get ready for ASU.”

The Wildcats (26-5, 6-2) tallied 16 runs on 18 hits, seven of which went for extra bases, but Candrea took exception with his team’s plate approach.

“Maybe my expectations are a little higher,” he said. “I think we still kind of gave away some at-bats and had some opportunities to really blow it open, but it seemed like the first game the bottom of the order was the one that really kind of produced everything. Our middle was like 0 for 10, so that’s a little bit of a concern, but it’s kind of the way the game is.”

Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, Sharlize Palacios and Janelle Meoño all homered for the Wildcats. It was Meoño’s first of her career. She had three hits on the day, extending her hitting streak to 17 games.

“Before the bat, obviously I’m not thinking a homer,” she said. “I was just trying to slap the ball and it just went.”

After Alyssa Denham and Mariah Lopez combined for a shutout in Game 1, freshman Devyn Netz threw a six-hit shutout in Game 2, the first of her career. Half those hits came in the second inning but Netz was able to strand the bases loaded.

“I think I did well,” she said. “I think I moved the ball pretty well in the beginning, kind of got hit a little bit in the second inning, but that’s just me going out there and learning.”

The Wildcats now head to Tempe for a big four-game series at No. 13 Arizona State. Arizona has won five straight against the Sun Devils, including a famous three-game shutout sweep in 2019 at Hillenbrand Stadium.

ASU (25-10, 6-6) entered that series with the best offense in college softball but only mustered one extra base hit all weekend.

Perhaps they can flip the script this time around. They enter the rematch as the third-best home-run hitting team in the country. Senior catcher Maddi Hackbarth has 17 dingers, tied for the third-most in the nation.

ASU’s problem has been pitching. Their 3.39 ERA ranks eighth in the nine-team Pac-12.

“It’s gonna come down to pitching and good defense, timely hitting, but at that level that’s kind of what the game looks like and we should be used to that,” Candrea said. “They’re not going to roll over and die. It’s a rivalry game and emotions play a big part in the rivalry game so you have to be very, very ready to throw some punches and be the aggressor.”

ASU gave Arizona some bulletin board material this week. The Sun Devils have been calling themselves Home Run U, a moniker UA uses too.

“I think we’re Home Run U,” Meoño said.

After all, Arizona is fifth in the nation in home runs per game and five of the top seven home-run hitters in NCAA history are Wildcats.

“Ours is the top lineup in the country, so I don’t see the big deal,” Netz said. “I think we got it, but it definitely will come down to this weekend and I can’t wait to see it, but I think we’ll come out on top.”

The ASU series will also be another chance for Arizona to prove it can beat quality teams. The Wildcats are 1-5 against ranked opponents this season.

“I think this game for us will determine who’s the best in the state,” Netz said. “And I think knowing that they’re one of the top teams in the Pac-12 as well, I feel it’ll be really fun and quite honestly I’ve just heard that they’ve got bats and they have some of their good pitching, not too bad, but I think we have a really good chance and I think we’ll have a good odds going into this series.”

Postgame interviews

Mike Candrea

Coach Candrea post GCU

Hear what Coach Candrea said after Arizona Softball's pair of 8-0 wins over GCU on Wednesday

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Janelle Meoño

Janelle Meoño post GCU

Leadoff hitter Janelle Meoño hit her first career homer in Arizona Softball's 8-0 win over GCU

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Devyn Netz

Devyn Netz post GCU

Freshman Devyn Netz threw her first career shutout in Arizona Softball's 8-0 win over GCU

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Wednesday, April 14, 2021