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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona in cruise control at Wildcat Invitational; sweep doubleheader Friday

Pearl Dixon

The Arizona softball team lines up with their opponent Abilene Christian before their game on Feb. 17.

Arizona softball continues to breeze past their opponents early in their 2017 season, and they remain undefeated after a pair of victories in a Friday night doubleheader. The Wildcats are now 8-0, and have won three of their games via run rule.

Arizona started the season 7-0 in 2016 before losing to unranked Central Michigan in the Mary Nutter Classic. This season, it’s hard to identify any unranked opponents Arizona will struggle with.

The Wildcats squared off with the Ball State Cardinals and the Abilene Christian Wildcats on Friday night, and they improved their run differential to +55 for the season.

Game 1-Arizona 9, Ball St. 1 (5 innings)

It took seven games for freshman Alyssa Palomino to connect on her first career home run, but it didn’t take nearly as long for her to smash her second career home run.

Palomino hit a two-run home run in the first inning to give the Wildcats an early 2-0 lead, and they did not let up on the Cardinals. Her three-run shot in the bottom of the fourth made it 7-1 Wildcats.

Senior Katiyana Mauga made sure to keep pace with Palomino, and she went back-to-back with the freshman to make it 8-1, and the Wildcats would wrap up the run rule in the fifth on a wild pitch. Mauga’s homerun moved her to 72 all-time, and the senior has had a fast start to her 2017 campaign.

“The thing I like about her right now is that she isn’t forcing anything,” Candrea said. “She’s showing patience at the plate, swinging at good pitches and not trying to pull everything. When she’s in this mode right now, and her mode right now is gap to gap, that’s when I think she’s really powerful.”

Sophomore Taylor McQuillin (2-0) allowed three hits and struck out six, and did not allow an earned run. Her ERA in the early going sits at 0.37, second on the team to Danielle O’Toole.

Game 2-Arizona 7, Abilene Christian 0 (5 innings)

The Wildcats rolled in to the second game of their doubleheader and jumped on the opposing Wildcats in the first innings.

After an error by Abilene Christian, freshman Dejah Mulipola advanced to third and Mauga drove her in with a sacrifice fly making it 1-0 Wildcats.

Senior Danielle O’Toole (5-0) struck out six and walked one in her six shutout innings. O’Toole leads the Wildcats in ERA with a miniscule mark of 0.19. O’Toole hurled 93 pitches over six innings against Abilene Christian, and Candrea removed her from the ballgame instead of allowing her to finish her complete game.

“You want to spread her innings out but on the other hand you want to make sure she’s ready for Pac-12 when you play three games in a weekend and she may see a little bit in each,” Candrea said. “You got to give her enough innings but then you don’t want to overdo it, I think we have a handle on it right now.”

The Arizona freshmen continue to make their presence felt early in the season, and on the same day Palomino found her groove, another freshman made noise ahead of Palomino in the lineup.

Dejah Mulipola went 3-5 over both games Friday, and her bases clearing double in the second inning against Abilene Christian gave Arizona a commanding lead early in the ballgame.

“She’s just so solid,” Candrea said. “She sticks pitches well, she throws well, the way she throws in between innings keeps people from running. She’s the whole package right now, and she’s swinging the bat well. I’m glad that she’s here and I’m glad that she’s playing the game with maturity right now.”

Palomino finished off her big day with a two-out, two RBI double in the sixth that made it 7-0 Wildcats. Palomino had her first monster day as a Wildcat, and she now feels settled in at the plate for Arizona.

“I don’t know,” Palomino said when asked why today was her breakout performance. “I just came in and had a plan. I’ve been talking to [coaches] and they’re just telling me to relax and swing at the ball.”

The redshirt freshman went 5-7 with two home runs and seven RBI on the day. Besides her big day, three other Wildcats drove in runs from all over the lineup. Having threats throughout the order is something Palomino says gives her confidence.

“It definitely helps with just saying ‘I can do this, I can be at this level,’ Palomino said. “It humbles me just to know that I have teammates that can come in and get the job done. So if I’m not doing it I know someone can come in and get it done so that’s also what I look forward to.”

Besides Palomino, Arizona’s bats quieted down during the middle part of the game, but O’Toole’s complete game dominance was more than enough for the Wildcats’ to secure their eighth victory.

Arizona continues the Wildcat Invitational on Saturday with another doubleheader. They take on the Boston College Eagles at 3 p.m. MST and face the Drake Bulldogs for a second time at 5 p.m. MST.

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter 

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