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What they said about Arizona softball’s comeback win over Ole Miss and advancing to Super Regionals

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Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Arizona softball pulled off a ferocious comeback to beat Ole Miss 12-6 Sunday to win the Tucson Regional in front of a full crowd at Hillenbrand Stadium. The No. 11 Wildcats advance to the Super Regionals, where they’ll take on No. 6 Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Our game recap can be found HERE and below are some notable quotes from players and coaches from both sides. The full interviews can be watched at the bottom of the story.

Arizona head coach Mike Candrea on the Wildcats overcoming an early 6-0 deficit: “When you give up six runs, it’s sometimes really difficult to compete the way they did, but I was just (impressed at) their response to that deficit. And then, I really thought Mariah Lopez was a huge factor today coming in and given us a really good ballgame. I’ve been around a lot of games and I told them that they showed more grit than anyone I’ve seen in a long time. And so, in a big game like that to be down by six and then end up winning by six, that says a little bit about them.”

Arizona shortstop Jessie Harper on the team’s dugout pep talk down 6-0: “It was more like we have tons of game left. We are good when we stick with each other, and we know that we have outs left. Just to trust in ourselves, trust in the person in front of you and behind you, and just show fight. The whole day, the moral of the story was, ‘don’t give up, we have outs to give.’ I was so proud, so impressed. We’re just doing the little things right. Base hits up the middle, scoring runs, moving runners. It was a good day, good team win for sure.”

Arizona third baseman Malia Martinez on Janelle Meono’s leaping catch in left that saved two runs in the second: “She’s incredible. She just impresses me every single day and that play was just, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that was crazy.’ I’m so proud and to think how young she is, she’s only going to keep getting better. She’s an absolute star it’s, it’s crazy. I can’t wait to see just all the growth, she’s going to do throughout her time here.”

Martinez on her fourth-inning homer that cut the deficit to 6-2: “I believe it was her screwball. It was away. And so I was really trying to make adjustments, trying to get my timing down, make sure I’m tracking the ball the way in and seeing a good pitch I can drive. I knew that I needed to just try to barrel it up as much as possible.”

Harper on Martinez’s homer: “I actually called her home run. I’m gonna say that because I knew she was due, and I knew she was gonna come up big for us. Malia is just that type of hitter where she’s gonna grind and she’s gonna come up big when she needs to.”

Martinez on staying positive ahead of her homer: “We had hope from the very first inning. We have such a long game, there’s lots of opportunities, so no point in getting down when we know that we’re going to be able to come back because we’re strong. So for me, my mentality and everyone’s mentality is to pass the bat. (Carlie Scupin) did a great job and got on base and so for me I was like, hey I need to either barrel it up and try to move her or in any way try to move her. Really just keeping that momentum and that mentality of passing the bat was huge for us and as you can see it really worked out.”

Ole Miss head coach Jamie Trachsel on how Arizona broke the game open offensively: “I think some of the balls they hit didn’t go at us for a play that we could make. Then I think there might have been a couple plays that we could have maybe had a chance to steal a hit that stretched us out a little bit for an extension ball that we were around, we just didn’t make that play. I think that was the difference is that we were able to get the ball, the ball was ether kind of hit towards us, or when we did get extended a little bit, we weren’t able to get those outs, and the ending continued. That was them putting up a couple runs in those innings versus not.”

Arizona pitcher Mariah Lopez on delivering six clutch innings of relief Sunday: “I think that these are the moments that we dream about as young athletes. I couldn’t have asked for it to work out better. I’ve been in these situations before, obviously, with playing at a previous school (Oklahoma) and then obviously here. I’m always talking about it to someone, I get more nervous when I’m in the dugout watching the game versus when I’m out there on the mound. Just with the experience, it’s helped me and guided me to this point. But it was a very special night. And again, having the fans there, that was an extra element for us and took us to the next level because we’ve been missing that. But I’m glad I’m here as the Arizona Wildcat. I’m glad I got to finish my career at Rita with that.”

Trachsel on what made Lopez so effective Sunday: “She has a screwball and a ball that moves up and I think just the spininess of it and the movement of it. I also think part of that was us responding maybe not as quickly as we needed to with the punches that Arizona was throwing.”

Candrea on Lopez’s improved mental state: “I remember at Florida her and I sat down and we talked about the mental game and and I talked about her body language and how her teammates kind of perceive that when they’re playing defense. I think she was just putting too much pressure on herself, trying to be too perfect. Mariah is the type of kid who is going say, ‘You know what, I’ll give you everything I have.’ I just think it’s taken a while for her to kind of get back to that feeling that she trusts her stuff. There was a little bit mechanics that I think they worked on, but I think right now it’s just her mindset, she’s not not pitching to not get beat. … I think she looks like a different person, I told her that tonight. I never saw that look on her face where she was that worried look. Tonight there was some determination and composed.”

Lopez on the fans’ reaction after her rally-ending strikeout to close the fifth inning: “I think we’ve been missing a little bit of the fire, not just from myself but from the fans and everything obviously with COVID. We haven’t had something like that in a really long time, so I think it just helped the team fire us up and then continue on to score some runs, whatever it may be. I think it really just shifted the momentum.”

Candrea on Lopez escaping the jam: “I thought that was really a turning point for us to get out of the bases-loaded jam. Like I told her tonight, you’ve earned your scholarship. She really competed well. I saw a different look on her face tonight, so that’s kind of nice to have going into Super Regionals.”

Harper on the team feeding off the crowd’s energy: “It was electric vibes in the dugout. Dejah (Mulipola) was moving around, like her body, ‘like everyone get on the train, we’re going.’ She was hyping us all up. Literally everyone played their part. It was such a special night. The fans, oh my gosh, thank you for that because the fans were awesome. But it was just electric. I have to say that, and it’s something special to play in front of our fans and play at Rita Hillenbrand. It’s a game I will never forget, for sure. Definitely it will help us carry on. I know, when we come to practice Tuesday morning, we’re gonna still be big smiles and tons of energy.”

Martinez on this game being her last at Hillenbrand Stadium: “It was unbelievable. Coach just said he was gonna make us all get emotional, but he was tearing up and talking about how that was one of the best games I’ve ever seen on this field. And just to come back from six runs and to come back in that sort of way, I’m so incredibly proud. It just shows the effort that we gave and honestly I can’t think of a better way to finish it off here.”

Harper on catching the final out of the game and giving the ball to Candrea: “It was something special. Mariah was working her butt off for us and she was doing so well. Mariah really came in and showed her stuff today and I’m so proud of her. But I caught that ball and I held on to that ball tight. That ball was not leaving my glove until I could walk over to coach and hand it to him because that is his ball at the end of the day. It was a great end to the season and to just be able to hand him the ball and give him a big ole hug and tell him I love him because that man has really built me into the person and player I am today. I’m so thankful for him and thankful for my time here at U of A, and we’re not done yet. Here we come Arkansas.”

Candrea on the state of the team heading to Arkansas: “If you’ve ever been through this, it’s a grind and we kind of knew where we were at and I kind of look back at the UCLA series as being a really good way to end the year because it was a tough opponent and I figured whoever comes in here we’re going to be prepared for them and be battle tested. And so I think any anytime you can come back from a six-run deficit and win a ballgame, it’s got to help your confidence. But we’re going into Arkansas, who’s a really good team, good pitching, good defense, they swing the bats and they draw lots of people. And so I think it’s going to be that challenge where we’ve talked about all year about being able to play well on the road. This is our opportunity.”

Postgame interviews

Mike Candrea

Coach Candrea post Ole Miss

Coach Candrea said Arizona Softball's 12-6 comeback win over Ole Miss was one of the grittiest games he's seen from a team at Hillenbrand Stadium

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, May 23, 2021

Jessie Harper

Jessie Harper post Ole Miss

Jessie Harper had 3 RBI in Arizona Softball's 12-6 comeback win over Ole Miss, which she said was one of the best games she's played in at Hillenbrand Stadium

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, May 23, 2021

Mariah Lopez

Mariah Lopez post Ole Miss

Mariah Lopez pitched 6 dominant innings in relief to help Arizona Softball complete a 12-6 comeback win over Ole Miss

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, May 23, 2021

Malia Martinez

Malia Martinez post Ole Miss

Malia Martinez hit a 2-run homer to help spur Arizona Softball's 12-6 comeback win over Ole Miss

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Sunday, May 23, 2021