Arizona softball wins tenth straight after sweeping Wildcat Invitational
Arizona softball outfielders Hannah Martinez (2) Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza (32) and Carli Campbell celebrate after defeating Harvard 5-1 in the first game of the NCAA Tournament Tucson Regional at Hillenbrand Stadium on May 17.
No. 4 Arizona Wildcats (21-3) had just had a taste of adversity for the first time this season after failing to pick up a top-10 win over Florida and dropping an unexpected loss to Texas A&M in the Mary Nutter Classic just two weeks ago.
Arizona showed no signs of panicking and traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala. and swept the Eastern Crimson Classic, including a pair of wins over No. 9 Alabama. The Wildcats didn’t stop there as they returned home to host the Wildcat Invitational, picking up another tournament sweep and winning its tenth straight game.
Here’s what we learned from this past weekend’s games.
Hannah “Peanut” Martinez has refound her stride
It was a slow start for the senior outfielder but Peanut Martinez has finally shown why she is so valuable to this team. Martinez came into the Wildcat Invitational hitting just .152 after starting in 45 games and posting a .280 batting average in 2019.
Her secret to getting out of the slump? A book given to her by head coach Mike Candrea titled Head’s Up Baseball.
“It’s a really big mindset book,” Martinez said. “My biggest thing is just knowing that you’re not going to do everything, you're not going to be perfect.”
Martinez brought life to the bottom half of the lineup this past weekend, going 4-for-11 with a home run and three RBI’s. She’s also gone back to showing bunt before every pitch as a way to establish a rhythm for herself at the plate.
“We went to that this last year and it helps her timing,” Candrea said. “I finally told her when we were at Alabama to go back to it. She sees the ball better that way and makes better decisions and is on time a lot better.”
Candrea still not pleased with the approach at the plate
Mike Candrea has stressed being aggressive at the plate without being reckless. Despite a couple of blowout wins against South Dakota, Southern Illinois Edwardsville and Indiana, Candrea was still not pleased with its offensive performance all season, particularly against Boise State on Saturday.
“We just looked clueless at the plate,” Candrea said after the Boise State game. “I don’t know whether it's just the mindset is not there but sometimes we get ourselves out because we’re just not ready to hit. We’re not ready to hunt a good pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Arizona has had a ton of games this year in which the offense has gone silent and disappeared in important situations. In the loss against Florida, the Wildcats strung together eight hits but only had two runs to show for it, leaving 10 runners on base.
The 2-0 win over McNeese State saw a similar story as the Wildcats stranded 10 runners again on nine hits and failed to capitalize on the Cowgirls’ three errors.
“Aggressive is good as long as you’re aggressive and smart,” Candrea said. “You can be aggressive and dumb and that’s not going to help you. We just need to have better pitch selection. We need to have a better plan and be able to stick to that plan.”
Mariah Lopez and Alyssa Denham are pitching too many innings
It was no secret that Mariah Lopez and Alyssa Denham were going to be the workhorses for the Wildcats heading into the season. The duo has a combined win/loss record of 20-3 with a sub-two ERA’s this year. Lopez and Denham have thrown 151.1 of Arizona’s 161 innings this season. A workload that Candrea believes is far too much.
“If you look down the season, at the end of the season, those innings add up,” he said.
Candrea linked the surplus of Lopez and Denham’s innings to the lack of offense and ability to put games away in the earlier innings.
“We’re trying to work backwards a little bit,” Candrea said. “Start our starters and then when we get ahead we can bring someone in and get some work but the way this offense is going, you can’t afford to do that.”
The Arizona Wildcats will host Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday at 6 p.m. before beginning conference play at home against Oregon State next weekend.
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