Wildcats top Utah 3-1 to open Pac-12 play
The Wildcats opened up Pac-12 Conference play at home Thursday night against the University of Utah.
The Utes come to Tucson after sweeping No. 24 Oregon State University at home to start their conference season last weekend. After a series full of pitching against ASU, Arizona will find themselves in another pitching duel this weekend. The Utes boast a 2.41 team era, good for third in the Pac-12. Game one lived up to the pitcher’s duel hype and Arizona took the first game 3-1.
The Utes opened up the game early in the first inning, when Utah’s second batter Hannah Flippen took the first pitch she saw from Danielle O’Toole and hit it deep in to the left field seats. The homer gave the Utes an early 1-0 lead that would not change until the fourth inning.
After another strike out to start the fourth, Miranda Viramontes had Wildcat slugger Katiyana Mauga down 0-2 before Mauga worked the count back to 2-2. Mauga was all over the next Viramontes offering and she crushed a solo home run to deep left tying the game 1-1.
O’Toole got in to trouble in the fifth inning after allowing two singles to lead off the inning. Utah’s Flippen was at the plate again after homering in the first. O’Toole fell behind 3-1, but induced a ground ball back to the circle and threw out the leadoff runner at third to pick up the first out of the inning.
O’Toole got the next batter to ground out before facing Utes cleanup hitter Heather Bowen with runners on second and third. O’Toole got Bowen to fly out to center fielder Alexis Dotson to end the inning. It was the last time O’Toole would face any trouble in the game.
Utah starter Viramontes had the Wildcats guessing early and often, and allowed only two hits through the first five innings. She would go five innings in the loss, but she limited the Wildcats’ offense throughout the game. She struck out eight batters and walked three in the game. Head coach Mike Candrea thought Viramontes' drop ball was effective against his Wildcat lineup.
“Her drop ball was really tough,” said Candrea. “I tip my hat off to her. She looked good tonight.”
Viramontes got her first taste of trouble in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Utes starter issued back-to-back two out walks to load the bases for Arizona second baseman Ashleigh Hughes. Hughes sent the 1-0 pitch right back up the box for a base hit that brought home two runs to give Arizona a 3-1 lead that would hold up as the final.
Redshirt Junior O’Toole had another strong performance going the distance, allowing one earned run on six hits while striking out four in the outing. O’Toole lowered her ERA to 1.65 keeping her at second overall in the Pac-12. She moves to 12-5 on the season. The victory marks her first home conference victory as a Wildcat. O’Toole started the weekend off strong after her Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week performance last week. Candrea pegged O’Toole as the reason for the Wildcats' victory Thursday night.
“I think tonight it was O’Toole. I think she battled her butt off,” Candrea said.
The Wildcats managed their three runs on only two hits, compared to the Utes' six.
The series continues Friday night at 7 p.m.