Arizona softball lost its chance at history last weekend. The Utah Utes finally got to the seemingly unbeatable Wildcats and made a race out of the Pac-12 Conference.
The Utes took two out of three from the Wildcats and now trail them by just two games in the conference. Both teams have tough schedules down the stretch, and after heading into the weekend with a commanding lead, Arizona now finds itself in a position where it doesn’t own a tiebreaker and the No. 6 Oregon Ducks are coming in to town.
The Wildcats struggled to come through in the clutch while in Salt Lake City, going just 4-16 combined with runners in scoring position over the final two games of the series.
They were 3-7 with runners in scoring position in game two, a modest number, but starter Taylor McQuillin gave up six earned runs in her start after having only given up seven runs combined in her first 16 appearances (14 starts).
Game two was the first time a team had scored more than four runs against Arizona all season and they trailed 6-0 after five innings. It happens to any team: a game where you just don’t have “it” for a night. It happened to the Wildcats earlier in the season against then-No. 1 Florida State, but they went on to win 26 games in a row.
Turns out the Utes were a little different than the 15 teams who Arizona beat during their streak.
The Wildcats were just 1-9 with runners in scoring position in their 3-2 loss to the Utes in the series-deciding game last Saturday. They loaded the bases with two outs in the final frame for senior Mo Mercado, but she grounded out and the Wildcats dropped their first series of the season.
With the Ducks on the horizon and No. 23 Arizona State University coming to Tucson the following weekend, the Wildcats could sure use a couple of home sweeps to keep the Utes at bay in second place.
In the national polls, Arizona fell from No. 2 all the way to … No. 3. The Utes jumped up to No. 10 in the USA Today/NFCA poll on Tuesday and even received one first place vote following their performance against the Wildcats.
The week got started on the right foot as the Wildcats swept the New Mexico State Lobos winning 8-0 and 11-1. McQuillin got back on track after her six earned run performance on Friday by tossing a one-hitter against the Lobos. McQuillin struck out 12 during her dominant performance.
Danielle O’Toole went five innings in game one giving up just two hits and struck out three. It was her 23rd win of the season and the offense was able to make it an eight run ballgame in the sixth and the Wildcats run ruled the Lobos.
The offense looks to be back on track as well and clubbed six home runs in the second game of the doubleheader. Katiyana Mauga inched closer to UA history hitting three home runs during the doubleheader and now has 86 for her career, good for fourth all-time on the NCAA home run list. She is just a homer shy of Stacie Chambers’ Arizona record.
With just three series left in the regular season, all of which are against ranked opponents, the Wildcats will either run away with the Pac-12, or watch their lead crumble away in the final weeks. Stay tuned.
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