When asked when the last time his team swept an opponent while not allowing a run in the process, Arizona’s 34-year coach Mike Candrea drew a blank.
“I’d have to look back, I’ve been here for a long time,” Candrea said.
That was probably not a fair thing to ask given that he had to process 1,590 victories over his career for an answer.
Facing Arizona’s “scary” pitching, as junior Alyssa Denham calls it, ASU drew a blank as well. The Sun Devils lost 2-0 Sunday at Hillenbrand Stadium, at least avoiding another mercy-rule loss as what happened Friday and Saturday to their archrivals.
ASU, the nation’s No. 1 hitting team entering the three-game series, might not think it was unfair to face ace Taylor McQuillin and Denham over 17 scoreless innings while getting swept, but it sure looked lopsided.
ASU’s bats mustered only six hits — five of them singles — in the three shutout losses. Arizona’s near-impeccable defense committed only one error in the games.
Arizona media relations specialist Daniel Martinez put in some research and discovered the shutout sweep was the first of its kind for Arizona (27-7, 9-0 Pac-12) since the conference went to a three-game weekend scheduling format in 2010.
This is also the first time Arizona has achieved a shutout sweep of ASU (25-11, 5-4).
“Not often do you go into a series like this and give up no runs,” Candrea said. “My hat goes off to our pitching staff and (pitching coach) Taryne (Mowatt).
“We’re getting good pitching, playing good defense and getting some hitting, so those are the key things that you have to do to keep winning.”
Arizona's shutout sweep of Arizona State marks the first time since the conference moved to three game series in 2010 that the Wildcats shutout an opponent in a weekend series.
It also marks the first ever shutout sweep of Arizona State. pic.twitter.com/NRVUEXTinv
Arizona’s shutout streak extends over the last four games, dating to last Sunday’s no-hitter by Denham at Oregon State. It is the longest in-conference scoreless streak since May 3-9, 2008.
The Wildcats will look to keep that pitching dominance going against UTEP (10-24) in a non-conference doubleheader Wednesday at Hillenbrand starting at 2 p.m. Their next Pac-12 series is at Utah starting Friday.
“I think it shows a lot about the pitching staff that we have,” said McQuillin, who struck out seven and walked two in her seven innings against ASU Sunday.
Two two-hit shutouts vs. ASU.
In the run-rule 8-0 win over ASU on Friday, McQuillin allowed two hits in five innings while striking out eight and walking one.
“We had some amazing plays defensively … and timely hitting. When we needed it, we got it,” McQuillin said.
They got it from up and down their lineup, including the bottom portion.
The Nos. 6-8 batters — Tamara Statman, Rylee Pierce and Hannah “Peanut” Martinez — were a combined 4 of 7 with a home run, double and two RBIs in Sunday’s game.
Rylee has both of our RBI today and extends our home run streak to nine straight games!
Those three batters, and No. 9 hitter Jenna Kean, had more hits than ASU this weekend. They went a combined 9 for 23 with three home runs (by Statman, Martinez and Pierce) and seven RBIs.
Pierce had two hits in her two at-bats and accounted for both of Arizona’s runs Sunday, with a home run and RBI single.
“At the end of the day, the more hits we get — the more timely hits we get — it equals wins,” Pierce said. “Whenever it’s my turn to hit, if there’s a runner in scoring position or if there is a runner on in general, or if nobody is on, just to get something going I think is important.
“With our dangerous top five or top six (in the order) … how dangerous they are, if we can just get on base, it’s almost guaranteed (to score) because it’s hard to stop those five.”
Reyna Carranco, the No. 2 hitter, has been hard to stop until today, with her 15-game hitting streak snapped (going 0 for 2). She is still batting a team-best .447.
Pierce now knows what it’s like to play in the rivalry series against ASU after playing at Missouri for three seasons before transferring as a graduate. She was an All-SEC second-team performer last season, hitting .335 with 11 doubles.
She has been exposed to big games in her career while in the SEC, but playing against ASU had a unique feel.
“They (her teammates) really, really, really wanted to beat ASU all weekend, so when we beat ASU, it was awesome,” Pierce said. “We didn’t just beat them. We came in and made a statement. It shows our team’s fight and our attack mentality.”
McQuillin showed a resilient mentality, working her way out of a seventh-inning jam after two runners reached with no outs. McQuillin then got the last three batters to fly out to improve her record to 12-5.
“At that point, we’re just trying to get outs; a leadoff walk isn’t ideal,” McQuillin said. “I realized, ‘Hey, I can use my defense.’ My defense is behind me. I’m not by myself in that situation.
“We got three pop-ups in. That’s the win.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.
Arizona has not achieved a shutout in all three games of a sweep since the Pac-12 went to a three-game schedule format in 2010.
The Wildcats have never swept.