Arizona softball punishes the ball and sweeps Utah
Arizona freshman second baseman Mo Mercado hits a solo homerun in the fifth inning of Arizona’s 8-3 victory over Utah at Hillenbrand Stadium on Sunday. The Wildcats hit four homers on Sunday, extending their NCAA-leading number of homeruns to 92 and improving to 27-0 at home.
Offense was the name of the game as the Arizona softball team swept a three-game series against Utah this weekend behind a multitude of home runs and improved their home record to 27-0.
After a game one blowout, Utah (23-24, 5-15 Pac-12) kept the next two games close by nearly matching Arizona’s offense.
The Utes came into the series with the third-worst record in the Pac-12 Conference but played much better than might be expected. Utah scored 11 runs over three games and likely would have stolen a game or two had Arizona not hit 13 home runs over the series.
The Wildcats increased their NCAA lead in team home runs to 92.
“We were talking about it this morning, actually talking about how many we hit,” junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre said. “It’s crazy because we hit so many home runs and still continue to go up with the same plan.”
Of the three games, Saturday’s game produced the most fireworks and even a couple program records. Four Arizona batters hit a home run in the game, including three home runs coming off the bat of freshman Katiyana Mauga.
Mauga’s three home runs tied the Arizona single game record for most home runs in a game by an individual player.
In addition, the team’s eight home runs broke the Arizona record for most team home runs in a single game. The previous record was seven home runs and was set by the 2004 Arizona squad.
“I’m just here to play softball and do whatever I can,” Mauga said. “If that means tying records, then that means tying records.”
Arizona (39-9, 12-6 Pac-12) played its most recent game Sunday and saw the offense come alive once again. However, Arizona head coach Mike Candrea was clearly concerned about the pitching staff.
Candrea pulled starting pitcher Nancy Bowling after only 0.2 innings after she walked four batters, allowed three runs and only retired two batters.
Candrea said he’s frustrated that he doesn’t know what to expect from his rotation on a daily basis.
“We need to have some consistency on the mound that we just don’t have right now,” Candrea said. “We’ve got some things to clean up a bit.”
The only game in which Candrea didn’t have to pull a starter early came Friday, when seniors Estela Piñon and Kenzie Fowler combined to allow only one hit in the 7-1 Arizona victory.
Friday was also the only game in which the Wildcats hit fewer than three home runs.
Candrea said he needs more consistency from his pitching staff for his squad to close the season strong.
“The biggest thing right now is trying to find some help on the mound and getting someone that can walk in there … and give me three good innings,” Candrea said. “The next couple weeks are going to really tell the test; you can’t afford to start off a game, give someone three runs and expect to come back all the time.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555