Softball: Mercado's natural instincts
In only her 19th collegiate at-bat, Alexis “Mo” Mercado found her focus and “just let it rip.”
Mo Mercado, Arizona softball’s freshman second baseman, cleared her mind then cleared the bases when she belted a grand slam in the bottom of the first against then-No. 4 Alabama on Sunday.
The four-run home run set the table for the now-No. 14 Wildcats to mercy-rule the Crimson Tide 8-0 in just five innings. It was the first time Alabama had been run-ruled since the 2011 Women’s College World Series, and it was its second loss to Arizona in as many days.
Mo Mercado, a California native, might not have ever been a Wildcat if it wasn’t for her uncle Richard Mercado.
Freshman second baseman Mo Mercado has performed well this season.
“I used to come visit him when I was little and he was playing on the team,” Mo Mercado said. “My family would watch him, and we’d also go watch spring training games.”
Richard Mercado, a UA alumnus, was a catcher under head coach Andy Lopez for the Wildcat baseball team from 2002-04. The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Richard Mercado in the 12th round of the 2004 MLB draft. Six months ago he became the head coach at Saddleback Valley Christian high school in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
“I guess I did kind of recruit her,” Richard Mercado said.
Mo Mercado said her favorite part about visiting her uncle was when she and her older sister Danica Mercado got to hang out with some of the girls on the softball team, who were friends with Richard Mercado.
“They were my idols,” Mo Mercado said. “Alicia Hollowell was my hero. Arizona quickly became my dream school after I first met them.”
Danica Mercado, a sophomore infielder for Oregon, and Mo Mercado were inspired by the Arizona softball team but learned the game from their family.
“When they were young, we were more hands-on,” Richard Mercado said, “but now Mo is so smart that she knows what she needs to do and how to change if there needs to be a quick fix.”
The girls’ father, David Mercado, played slow and fast pitch softball at the national and world level. He was his daughters’ coach for most of their lives and became Mo Mercado’s high school coach in 2012.
Though the game is played on a smaller field, Richard Mercado said the game is really no different than baseball.
“It’s a little quicker, and there are small details that are different,” Richard Mercado said. “But at the end of the day, it’s still putting the bat on the ball and overcoming the ups and downs that hitting brings.”
Nine games into her freshman season, Mo Mercado has already experienced some of the challenging highs and lows. Mo Mercado said she was frustrated after her first game on Feb. 7, when she didn’t record a hit in Arizona’s 9-0 victory over Southern Mississippi.
Following the win, there was a change of approach at the plate, which immediately saw a change in results for Mo Mercado.
After not recording a hit in her first game, Mo Mercado has had eight hits over the team’s next eight games, including three doubles and her first college home run.
“Mo has natural instincts,” said Arizona softball head coach Mike Candrea, “something I know her father and uncle taught and instilled in [her].”
“She understands the game and how it works,” he added. “This game can challenge you, and she just knows how to deal with those challenges. She’s played at such a high level her whole life, something like playing Alabama isn’t too much for her.”
Heading into Arizona’s weekend tournament in Palm Springs, Calif., where the Wildcats will face three ranked opponents at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, Mo Mercado is hitting .333. She is tied with Courtney Rodriguez for most doubles on the team.
“I don’t really try to think too much when I’m up there,” Mo Mercado said.
Her early season success at the plate helped Arizona make the jump from the No. 24-ranked school in the country to No. 14 in just a week. Her grand blast against Alabama began a rally that carried the Wildcats to their first mercy victory over a top-five school since 2009. But at this point, she said she’s not thinking about how far she could take the team.
And Candrea is fine with that. Candrea said the most valuable instinct a freshman can have is to have a clear mind, because it helps them understand the process of an entire 56-game season. So the more she doesn’t think and just reacts on her natural instincts, the better for her and the team.
“I just went up there looking to put the bat on ball and drive it,” Mo Mercado said about her grand slam. “I just let it rip.”
— Follow Luke Della @LukeDella