The Arizona softball team built a big lead then pulled away later to beat Ole Miss 12-6 on Saturday to advance to Sunday’s Tucson Regional final.
Our full recap can be found here and below are some of the best postgame quotes from head coach Mike Candrea and catchers Dejah Mulipola and Sharlize Palacios. The full interviews can be found at the bottom of this story.
Palacios on her grand slam in the second inning: “I’m going to start off when I saw that they were intentionally walking Dejah. I mean, I just love the pressure situations. I thrive on them. They’re not always gonna go my way but when they do it’s awesome. Right away I’m mentally started preparing myself. I was like, they want me? I’m going to show them what I have. So I went up there and I just wanted to focus on the pitches that I wanted. I kept fouling off pitches just looking for mine that I wanted to hunt and I finally got it. Everyone was telling me that it was really low to the floor, I almost had a knee down, I didn’t even know. I was just going to hit it. And I mean, my strength was able to take it out.”
Palacios on having four hits and eight RBI this weekend: “This week I worked a lot with the coaches and a lot of time spent in the cages, just working on my swing. I didn’t feel too well the last two series that I had in the Pac and I wanted to change that. I wanted to make a different destiny for me in the postseason so I just worked endless hours in the cage and had a few talks with my parents and asked him what they saw and just fixed it from there.”
Palacios on the adjustments she made: “Just being myself. I mean, it’s so broad...but I know how I’m a good hitter and I was trying to be a different type of hitter when I wasn’t doing well. I was trying to take things too big. I don’t try to hit home runs; it just kind of happens for me. I don’t know that’s weird to say, but I go for base hits of the middle like you guys saw in the game and that’s my approach and I just had to keep that approach and things work out for me.”
Palacios on the importance of her homer: “Yeah, honestly, I felt like the momentum was already on our side, but with that I felt like we had it and we showed that we have our pitchers backs no matter what. And we just need to keep doing that rolling through with the momentum and keeping this going, even through Supers.”
Palacios on playing in her first postseason: “I’ve been excited to be in playoffs since before the season even started. I mean, our team thrives in playoffs. .... A stage like this is awesome to play on and be with these girls. I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
Mulipola on Arizona’s resiliency: “The biggest thing in postseason is anything can happen. I mean teams can come back from 8-0 or 12-0, it doesn’t matter... You have to keep your foot on the gas and just keep going.”
Mulipola on her bond with fellow catcher Sharlize Palacios: “Oh yeah, I love her. Anybody who knows Shar knows that she’s such a family-oriented girl. She wants the best for you at all times. I mean, she’s a big player and she’s only a freshman. I love that she’s a catcher with me and that she’s right behind me, she’s always cheering me on, we’re always rooting for each other. We just want each other to succeed and I know as long as she’s in the lineup and she’s behind me I’m in good hands regardless of what I do.”
Palacios on learning from Mulipola: “Yeah, it’s awesome to be able to hit behind her and Jessie (Harper). I just think our lineup all the way through is just an amazing lineup and we’re a force to be reckoned with and we’re showing it no.w I don’t think we showed it as much. There were glimmers of it throughout the season but now is when we’re worth showing off what we can really do.”
Candrea on having a catcher like Palacios waiting in the wings to replace Mulipola: “That’s what you hope. Sometimes in the recruiting process it doesn’t quite work that way because when you have a Dejah behind a plate, it’s kind of hard to get a top line catcher. But we were lucky to get Sharlize and I think Sharlize can speak for herself. I mean, she’s a very talented young lady. Strong arm. I think she’s shown she can swing the bat as well as anyone, so we’re we’re very blessed to have her. She’s got her bright future ahead of her.”
Candrea on Hanah Bowen and Alyssa Denham: “Bowen came in and the first two hitters, she couldn’t find the zone. She settled down and did what Hanah Bowen does and that’s compete. Doesn’t get into trouble very often. Denham, I think they were picking her pitches. And it’s kind of hard to throw pitches when someone knows that it’s coming. So that’s something that we are aware of and need to fix.”
Candrea on Bowen relieving Mariah Lopez to begin the sixth: “[Bowen] has been our hot hand and and has proven that she can come in and put out fires. My only concern is Mariah was a riseball pitcher. With the wind blowing out like it was, I thought Denham was the perfect match today to keep the ball in the ballpark and unfortunately that didn’t quite happen but she understands where she’s at and will be ready tomorrow. I think it’ll be all hands on deck again. And I think this team from here on out, that’s what you’re gonna have to see.”
Candrea on his team responding to Ole Miss’ comeback attempt: “I think that’s an indication of our veterans not hitting the panic button and just getting back to having quality at bats and I think that’s where those seniors really play a big part for us because they kind of set the example in the dugout. They didn’t press the panic button. They were talking to everyone, saying hey we just need to settle down and go out and have some competitive at bats. It’s great to have that leadership.”
Mulipola on the emotions of playing their final game in Hillenbrand on Sunday: “They’ll probably be everywhere. I mean, the fans here have been amazing, even though we’ve just had them for two games at full capacity, but they’re a big deal and whether you play at home or, it’s important to win on the road because Oklahoma City, you’re on the road regardless, I think that’s gonna be a good test for us to get a little bit of taste and what it’s going to be like to be on the road, especially with such a young team that we have. So we’re gonna definitely miss being here in Rita, but we’re gonna embrace it and hopefully we get that win.”
Candrea on his team coming through with big hits: “It makes me feel good right now. It’s something that we have been missing is that key hit and being able to blow a game open. When we put the runs on a board, I really felt like when they walked Dejah that Palacios could hurt them. She got a good pitch and so that was good to see, but we just have to keep having competitive. I think this team’s good enough that for the most part we should be able to come through in clutch situations. But that’s part of the game. If everyone came through every time that they were in a situation like that, the game would be boring. And that’s what makes it tough. A lot of things change, whether it’s a physical, emotional change at the plate. Whether you’re pressing, whether you’re not seeing the ball. I mean, there’s so many factors in swinging the bat well and confidence is a really hard thing to keep in this game ... All you can really do is prepare yourself and you got to walk up to the plate and trust your approach to the plate and then whatever happens, you have to respond and get ready for the next at-bat.”