When a team breaks its huddle it can be a good indicator of its psyche.
The team chants something like, “1-2-3 Wildcats!” Arizona ace Taylor McQuillin thought the energy was lacking this time after the sixth-ranked Wildcats’ 2-1 loss to No. 3 Washington on Friday night in which they left a frustrating nine runners on base at Hillenbrand Stadium.
“I just felt like at the end there we didn’t give a good cheer,” McQuillin said of the players-only meeting on the field that ensued after. “I just wanted to keep our standards high. The team understands that.
“No matter what the outcome is we’re going to keep our standards high. That’s just the way it works at Arizona. That’s the way it’s going to stay, no matter if we win or lose.”
Players-only meeting after tonight's loss for Arizona. pic.twitter.com/v4nM9jTbxD
Arizona (40-9, 17-2 Pac-12) has lost two of its last three games after putting together a 21-game winning streak. The Wildcats had the opportunity to move into sole possession of first place with No. 2 UCLA losing at Stanford but the Wildcats and Bruins are still atop the standings at 17-2.
Washington (40-7) is two games behind at 15-4. The Wildcats and Huskies play the second game of the series at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hillenbrand.
Arizona’s will has been put to the test recently, scoring only 11 runs in the last 30 innings dating to the start of the Cal series last weekend in Berkeley, Calif.
In that four-game stretch — after Arizona run-ruled Stanford twice two weeks ago at Hillenbrand and scored 29 runs in a sweep of the Cardinal — the Wildcats have stranded 35 runners on base. Their LOB’s in the last four games — 8, 9, 9 and 9.
“We’re getting people on; we’re just not executing with that big quality at-bat that we needed,” said Jessie Harper, who finally produced a run for Arizona in the seventh on a single up the middle that scored Hannah Martinez and chased Washington starter Gabbie Plain with two outs.
Mike Candrea reiterated that he "can't complain about our effort." Arizona had its chances with nine runners left on base, including five in scoring position, in the 2-1 loss. pic.twitter.com/ZVV9S4Jee9
Martinez had singled to start the inning and moved to third on a single by Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza one out later. When Reyna Carranco popped out to shortstop for the second out, it appeared the Wildcats would not cash in again.
Harper followed with her run-producing single and flame-thrower Taran Alvelo, who throws in the 70’s, entered in relief for the Huskies. She struck out cleanup hitter Dejah Mulipalo with some heat to end the threat and the game.
“We’re going to learn from our mistakes today,” Harper added. “We did a great job on defense backing up Taylor. We just have to do a better job hitting-wise.”
Arizona's Jessie Harper addresses the Wildcats' production dating to the Cal series. UA has 11 runs in the last 30 innings after scoring 29 in a sweep over Stanford two weeks ago that included two five-inning run-rule victories. pic.twitter.com/XzIIZxrrVh
Arizona entered this series second in the nation with 90 home runs. The Wildcats have only two in their last four games.
McQuillin’s curveball to Washington slugger Morganne Flores on a full-count with two outs in the third proved to be the difference as Flores belted the pitch to centerfield to put the Huskies up 2-0. It was Flores’ 18th home run this season. The rest of Washington’s lineup has 16 homers.
Her blast plated Sis Bates, the previous batter who got the first hit off McQuillin in the game with a single up the middle.
“Obviously with a full-count you don’t really want to leave it too much over the plate,” said McQuillin, who is a former traveling team batterymate of Flores. “It’s a mistake; it was hit hard. Itidn’t really help us out a lot.
“We were right there in it. I take the responsibility for that.”
"I just want to keep the standards high … that's the way it works at Arizona," ace Taylor McQuillin said explaining the players-only meeting after the 2-1 loss to Washington. pic.twitter.com/rCU9QrKbKF
Despite the lack of timely hits and McQuillin giving up that long ball to Flores — whose power is no secret — Arizona coach Mike Candrea kept a positive outlook and praised his team for its performance going without an error and out-hitting Washington 6-3.
“We just couldn’t get a key hit when we needed to, but I can’t complain about our effort,” Candrea said.
Of Flores’ home run, Candrea said, “That was a little disappointing but I’m not disappointed with the way we played.”
McQuillin (19-6) allowed three hits and struck out four with three walks in her seven innings. She will have to try again Sunday to reach the 20-win plateau after going 28-12 last season.
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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.