Arizona softball walks-off to sweep Stanford
A game that started out dull ended with a bang on Sunday afternoon.
Arizona freshman right fielder Katiyana Mauga’s eighth inning walkoff home run against Stanford gave the Wildcats a 5-3 win and a weekend sweep of the Cardinal, and kept its perfect home record alive.
“I knew they were going to go outside on me,” Mauga said, “but I was just relaxed and breathing. All I was trying to do is get on base. Whatever happens, happens.”
After scoring two runs in the first inning Sunday, No. 10 Arizona (32-8, 7-5 Pac-12) was held scoreless until it tied the game in the bottom of seventh to send the game to extra innings.
The Arizona softball team celebrates its 5-3 walkoff win over Stanford a Hillenbrand Stadium on Sunday. The Wildcats improved to 22-0 at home with the three-game series sweep of Stanford over the weekend.
Between the second and the sixth innings the Wildcats recorded just two hits. In the meantime the No. 24 Cardinal (24-14, 1-8) also struggled to get runners across the plate, despite the fact that it made Wildcats’ starting pitcher Estela Piñon work hard.
“[Piñon] doesn’t match up too well with Stanford,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “They’re patient hitters and they don’t chase a lot.”
Piñon, who went all 8 innings for Arizona, gave up eight hits and two earned runs and walked nine Cardinal batters.
“We can’t afford to be walking as many people as we’re walking right now,” Candrea said.
Though Piñon allowed 17 batters to reach base — the Wildcats also had two errors in the game — 16 Stanford base runners were left on base.
The Cardinal left the bases loaded three times Sunday afternoon.
“For some reason I’m good with pressure,” Piñon said about pitching with runners on base. “Knock on wood, hopefully it stays that way. But all that matters is we got that W.”
Sunday’s 5-3 win was a change of pace for the Wildcats who had been crushing the ball at home this season. In the first two games of the series with Stanford, Arizona scored a combined 30 runs on 29 hits.
For the season, the Wildcats have scored 10 or more runs in 11 of their 22 home games.
“We swung the bats really well in the first two games,” Candrea said. “Every now and then you’ll have games like [Sunday] where you’re battling a little harder, but we still got 10 hits, so [Sunday] wasn’t a bad offensive day.”
After getting the win Sunday, Arizona is now 22-0 at home this season but 10-8 on the road.
Although there wasn’t much offense throughout Sunday’s game, the Wildcats’ bats are noticeably better at Hillenbrand Stadium.
With a road series at California coming up on the schedule, Candrea is addressing the issue.
Following Sunday’s win, the head coach, who is now in his 29th season at Arizona, spoke with the team in left field about playing better on the road.
“We got to find a way to carry over home success to the road,” Candrea said. “It’s hard to say why it happens but being on the road can be a little different — different environment, different sleeping situation, and there’s a lot of downtime.”
To combat the downtime, Candrea is shaking things up.
Last weekend at ASU, the Wildcats dropped the first two games and only scored one run in each of the losses, so Candrea took his team to a different field for batting practice last Saturday night.
Arizona won the final game at ASU 6-5 in 10 innings.
“Being on the road can be a little uncomfortable,” Mauga said. “Your fans aren’t there and you’re sleeping in a hotel, and there’s not much to do once the game is over.”
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella