Arizona freshman catcher Dejah Mulipola prefers to do her birthday celebrations at home plate.
Mulipola went 5-for-5, hit two home runs and drove in eight runs Sunday to power 10th-ranked UA to a doubleheader sweep at Hillenbrand Stadium at the Wildcat Invitational.
Her two-run first-inning home run was all Arizona needed — and got — in a 2-1 victory over North Dakota State. She did even more in a 12-2 five-inning victory over Boston College.
Mulipola hit a deep two-run home run to left in the first inning and came to bat later in the inning with the bases loaded, clearing them all with a double.
That’s a lot of celebration, even before a team dinner Sunday night.
“I wish she had a birthday every day,” coach Mike Candrea said. “She had a hell of a day.”
Mulipola finished her afternoon with a sacrifice fly as Arizona improved to 11-0, its best start since 2006.
“Today, I tried to be extra relaxed,” she said. “I didn’t want to let my birthday get to my head. I just tried to stay calm each and every at-bat.”
Get used to the name. Mulipola, who was rated the No. 5 recruit in the country by FloSoftball.com, is bating a team-high .593 (16 of 27) with three home runs and 17 RBIs, one off the team lead. She immediately earned the trust of Candrea, who wrote her name second in the batting order from the opening game.
Candrea said Mulipola reminds her a bit of another strong, sturdy catcher he had 20 years ago — Leah Braatz. Candrea said they both have “quiet hands.” Not a lot of wasted movement in the swing. Braatz slugged 85 home runs — tied for second on the Arizona career list.
“A little bit different,” Candrea said, comparing the two, “but just strong, really strong with her legs and hands. Hits the ball opposite field very well. When she is on top of things, you are going to see some lasers hit that way.”
There’s more to Mulipola than hitting. She is a good athlete (and not just for a catcher) and the Arizona pitchers rave about her defensive skills. She picked a runner off first Sunday. Opponents have tested her throwing arm with just one stolen base attempt in 11 games. (It was successful.)
“No one has tried to run on us because the throw she makes between innings is a laser,” Candrea said. “She’s just a great athlete. I love watching her play.”
5-for-5. 2 HR. 9 RBI.
Mulipola had three of Arizona’s five hits in the first game, as North Dakota State starter Jacquelyn Sertic gave the Wildcats trouble with her rise ball. Candrea said afterward, “I think we have to tip our hat to her” and that “it was a good lesson for us.”
Boston College scored two in the first inning off Taylor McQuillin before the Cats responded with eight runs in their half of the frame. Nancy Bowling pitched four scoreless innings of relief of McQuillin, who was suffering from some “soreness” Candrea said.
Senior third baseman Katiyana Mauga hit her sixth home run of the season in the fourth inning, giving her 73 for her career, 14 off the school record.
But the day belonged to Mulipola. She might have had days like this at Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, Calif., and with the Orange County Batbusters club team, but she wasn’t expecting this so fast in college.
“Definitely not,” she said.
Candrea, naturally, likes the results, but also loves Mulipalo’s process.
“Right now, she’s just looking for a good pitch and putting a good swing on it,” he said.
“When you’re swinging the bat well, it’s like a magnet. When you’re not swinging the ball well, it’s like you have a hole in it. Right now, she has a big magnet and everything she’s hitting, she’s hitting hard.”