Softball run rules ASU for big series win on Senior Day
Arizona senior Eva Watson (14) hugs her teammates during Senior Day on April 30.
It was senior day for Arizona softball, and with the series on the line against the Arizona State Sun Devils, senior leader Mo Mercado sparked the Wildcats to an 8-0 victory in five innings by getting things going with her 10th home run of the season in the bottom of the third.
“Definitely exciting,” Mercado said of her solo shot. “It was big moment for me; it was good.”
After three innings of a pitcher’s duel, Mercado’s shot started an offensive onslaught by the Wildcats that resulted in a run rule victory. Arizona concluded their regular season home schedule by taking the rubber match from the Devils and keeping hold of their slim Pac-12 Conference lead. Senior Danielle O’Toole threw a complete game shutout, allowing just one hit and recorded five strikeouts.
“[It felt] good, really good,” O’Toole said when asked about taking the series against ASU.
The one hit O’Toole gave up came on a questionable call on a ball hit right on the chalk in right field. It was all that stood between the senior and her second no-hitter of the season, and even on senior night against ASU, the call didn’t slip O’Toole’s mind.
“I don’t know how foul or fair that ball was, but whatever,” O’Toole said.
ASU starter Breanna Macha from the ballgame in the third inning with the Wildcats ahead 2-0, and the Sun Devils brought in freshman Giselle Juarez, who shut down the Wildcats on Saturday night with a complete game gem.
The Wildcats' Pac-12-leading offense was too much for Juarez the second time around, and she quickly struggled against the Wildcats leaving the game with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning.
Mercado recorded a walk after battling through a full count and up came Jessie Harper. Even though it was Senior Day, the seniors didn’t do all the work for the Wildcats.
Freshman Jessie Harper stayed hot on Sunday following up Mercado’s bases-loaded walk with grand slam that gave the Wildcats a commanding 7-0 lead. Harper finished the weekend 6-9 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
“I really wanted to do it for our seniors [today],” Harper said. “I know yesterday was a little bit of an upset, but we just had to come out here strong. This whole year has been about the seniors. This is a year for us, too, to bring back Arizona softball and relive the tradition.”
Redshirt freshman Alyssa Palomino followed up the grand slam with a solo shot that made it 8-0 Wildcats, putting them in position to close out the game early. O’Toole ended things in the top of the fifth.
The Wildcats had eight seniors play their last regular season home game, and they go down as the biggest senior class Arizona head coach Mike Candrea has ever had.
“The way we did it tonight, against ASU, was pretty special,” Candrea said. “They really put us back on the map, to be honest with you. This senior class really wanted to get Arizona softball back to where it was a factor. I think this year they’ve done that.”
O’Toole mentioned how much the senior class has changed the “culture” around Arizona softball.
“I don’t how to explain how we changed it, but we did,” O’Toole said. “It took a lot of work, and I think [coach] really recognizes how much work it was.”
Besides changing the culture of the program, O’Toole became emotional when asked about her experience in an Arizona uniform.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done; it’s the best decision of my life,” O’Toole said through tears.
Arizona heads to Los Angeles to conclude the regular season with a three-game set against the UCLA Bruins. The series begins on Friday, May 5, at 5 p.m. and will be aired on Pac-12 Networks.
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