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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball returns home to face Stanford Cardinal

Arizona+pitcher+Danielle+OToole+%283%29+during+the+Wildcats+softball+game+against+the+Texas+Longhorns+on+March+5+at+Hillenbrand+Stadium.+Arizona+beat+Texas+4-2.
Pearl Dixon

Arizona pitcher Danielle O’Toole (3) during the Wildcats’ softball game against the Texas Longhorns on March 5 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona beat Texas 4-2.

After capping off a perfect month of March for the first time in program history, Arizona softball returns to the Grand Canyon state hoping to get through another weekend with an undefeated record in the Pac-12 Conference when they face Stanford this weekend.

The weather isn’t the only thing heating up in Tucson. The Wildcats are currently riding a 22-game winning streak, its longest since 2004 and they are excelling in all areas of the game. Sporting a lineup and pitching staff that leads a combined 10 categories in the conference, showcasing what happens when experienced seniors and talented freshman take the field together.

From top to bottom this team’s lineup has been deadly, Mandie Perez and Dejah Mulipola have scored more more than twice as many runs (85) then all of Arizona opponents combined (37). While Reyna Carranco is blazing through Pac-12 teams, hitting .500 in her last 26 at-bats and leading the team in batting average since the start of conference play. Her middle infield partnership has blossomed both on the field and in the batter’s box. Senior Mo Mercado commented on the partnership.

“Defensively a big thing for us is communication, a lot of in-between pitches and just being verbal with each other,” Mercado said. “Offensively, I know a lot of the upperclassmen lefties have been working with her [Carranco] and that’s helped her.”

The freshman from California struggled to get her foot in the door, finding it hard to break in to one of the best lineups in the country. With the help of a few upperclassmen Carranco has turned things around, seamlessly joining fellow freshman Jessie Harper and Alyssa Palomino who have come into their own as well.

“She got a good swing and I think it was just a matter of her understanding what she needs to do to be successful at this level,” said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. “I really think Statman, Hughes and Reyna (Carranco) have been a key to us being able to turn our lineup over more often.”

On the mound no one has been hotter than Taylor McQuillin who hasn’t missed a beat since recovering from her early season arm soreness. The sophomore has yet to lose a game this season and has only allowed eight hits over her last 17 scoreless innings. Having to face O’Toole and McQuillin back-to-back has proved a difficult task for teams all season.

Friday’s opener between Arizona and Stanford will pit the conferences best team against it’s worst, as Arizona’s opponent enters on a six game skid still looking for their first victory in Pac-12 play. Up and down performances in nonconference play haven’t translated well for the Cardinal, who have been routinely outplayed in the Pac-12 being outscored 40-17 in their previous six games.

However, there are glimmers of hope. Bessie Noll and Teaghan Cowles have been a rays of light on the offensive end for the Cardinal. The freshman Cowles has been a do-it-all for the Cardinal thus far. With one of the top batting averages on the team (.387) and tied for the lead in run scores on the team with 27. Cowles could prove to be a hard batter to put away. Her slugging partner Noll, has a team leading .582 slugging percentage and 11 doubles providing Stanford a solid cleanup hitter day in and day out.

Batters like Noll and Cowles haven’t been the issue for Stanford this season, the pitching has let the team down on a number of occasion. The team’s combined 4.40 ERA spells bad news, considering the Wildcats average more than seven runs per game.

The return to Hillenbrand should be a welcoming site for one of the top ranked teams in the country, who haven’t lost home game since early May of last year. Stanford has the bats to make a game or two interesting but their Achilles heel could be shown again thanks to a questionable rotation.

The series begins on Friday, April 7 at 6 p.m. at Hillenbrand Stadium.


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