With two outs in the top of the first, Arizona softball head coach Mike Candrea made a call to the dugout. Freshman Hanah Bowen, who had started the game, struggled from the get-go, allowed three runs on 27 pitches and was taken out of the game by Candrea.
Enter, Alyssa Denham.
The sophomore retired the first 13 batters that she faced, finishing the game allowing just one hit, striking out three as the Wildcats were able to settle in and complete the sweep of Cal with a 7-3 win in the series finale.
“I was just hitting my spots, really,” Denham said. “I took control of every count, and I knew that I was going to make them earn it and not give them any freebies.”
The one hit allowed was Denham’s lowest in a game all season. In her previous games in which she had pitched at least six innings, her lowest amount of hits let up was five.
“Sometimes you have these breakout moments as players, and I thought that today was one for her,” Candrea said. “She sent me a text last night telling me how she was ready.”
The ‘Cats tied the game at three in the bottom of the second. Leading off, redshirt senior Aleah Craighton smashed a solo shot over the wall in straight-away center, her sixth homer of the year. Then, redshirt freshman Carli Campbell hit an RBI single up the middle that scored sophomore Malia Martinez.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit,” Craighton said. “We’ve been working on a few things, trying to get my swing back to where it was. So I think this weekend was kind of a breakout weekend.”
In the next inning, the Wildcats gave Denham some run support. First, redshirt sophomore Alyssa Palomino hit her 11th home run of the season over the wall in left, giving Arizona its first lead of the game. Later in the inning, Malia Martinez hit an RBI single that scored sophomore Jessie Harper. Then, junior T Statman hit an RBI single of her own that scored Craighton, giving the ‘Cats a three run lead.
To lead off the bottom of the fifth, Jessie Harper hit her Pac-12 best 12th home run of the season, a solo shot into fight field. The homer made the score 7-3, where it would stay for the remainder of the game.
“I’m just really pleased with our fight, but more importantly, our quality at-bats throughout the day,” Candrea said. “I thought we really did a good job of sticking to the plan, and using the count to our advantage.”
The Wildcats now head to the road for a weekend series in Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks. The first game of the series is Friday, April 6, at 5 p.m.
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