Arizona All-American junior catcher Dejah Mulipola hit a two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning to give the sixth-seeded Wildcats a 3-1 win over No. 3 Washington in the opening game of the Women’s College World Series on Thursday morning.
Mulipola’s 23rd home run of the season plated Malia Martinez, who singled before her against Washington ace Taran Alvelo.
“I looked over at first and saw Malia Martinez and she looked at me and clapped her hands and said, ‘Let’s go.’ I knew I had to do it for the team. I had to step up and I did,” Mulipola told ESPN after the game.
No. 6 Arizona (48-12) will next play on Friday at 4 p.m. against the winner of the Minnesota-UCLA game that was played after this morning’s game.
The Wildcats, in the WCWS for the first time since 2010, have won eight of their last nine games after suffering a sweep at the hands of the Huskies (50-8) three weeks ago at Hillenbrand Stadium.
“We didn’t get too high today. We didn’t get too low,” Mulipola said. “We took a deep breath each inning and played our game and it showed. It’s so amazing, especially because we got swept by Washington. To have them as our first game and to have a ‘W’ is amazing.”
Mike Candrea said Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza has above-average speed and she showed that for the second out in the 7th. pic.twitter.com/TN0X4wVhUe
The pitcher’s duel between two All-Americans — Arizona’s Taylor McQuillin and Alvelo — opened a bit in the sixth with both teams hitting home runs.
Arizona junior shortstop Jessie Harper hit her 29th home run of the season to give the Wildcats a short-lived 1-0 lead in the sixth.
Washington’s leadoff batter in the bottom of the inning, Sami Reynolds hit a home run to tie the game at 1. Taryn Atlee hit a bloop double to left field with one out and moved to third on a groundout by pinch-hitter Ari Quinones. Another pinch-hitter Noelle Hee flew out to deep center field to end in the inning.
Jessie Harper's 29th HR puts Arizona ahead 1-0 with one out in sixth. pic.twitter.com/TJLyaB1Yuj
Alvelo (25-5) looked like she might run into trouble in the seventh after hitting Rylee Pierce with a pitch and allowing an infield single to Reyna Carranco. But Alvelo, who allowed five hits with one walk and a postseason career-high 11 strikeouts in her eight innings, got the next three batters out.
In the last two seasons heading into today, Alvelo was 5-0 with a save and a 0.48 ERA against Arizona.
McQuillin (24-7) worked out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh with runners on first and second after bunt singles by Amirah Milloy and Sis Bates with one out. Arizona center fielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza tracked down a line-drive fly ball to right-center by Morganne Flores for the out, preventing the runners from advancing. Reynolds then grounded out to first to end the threat.
“I just drop, step and go. I try to read the ball as well as I can,” Palomino-Cardoza told ESPN. “To make a play like that defensively, to do that on the field for my team, is pretty special.”
Taylor McQuillin joins the 800-strikeout club at Arizona:
Alicia Hollowell 1768 03-06
Taryne Mowatt 1267 05-08
Jennie Finch 1028 99-01
Becky Lemke 916 98-01
Susie Parra 874 91-94
Kenzie Fowler 857 10-14
Taylor McQuillin 800 16-19 pic.twitter.com/wc0qWJEtIk
McQuillin reached 800 strikeouts in her career. She had seven strikeouts to increase her career total to 804. She allowed four hits and also walked one in her eight innings of work.
After Alvelo walked Palomino-Cardoza on four pitches to lead off the game, she retired nine consecutive batters, including six by strikeouts. The Wildcats did not hit the ball out of the infield at that point.
She reached retiring 10 straight batters with one out in the fourth when Martinez hit a double off the right field wall. Martinez, who went 6 for 8 last week against Ole Miss in the Super Regional, was left stranded there. She finished 2 for 4 against the Huskies.
Malia Martinez continues her torrid play in the postseason. Double ends Alvelo's no-hit bid in the fourth. pic.twitter.com/FdWFmgSsWd
McQuillin did not allow a runner past second through the first five innings. She struck out batters in three of those first five innings to shut the door on any potential Husky rallies.
The biggest threat to that point was with two outs in the fifth when No. 9 batter Milloy reached on a bunt single and then McQuillin hit Sis Bates with a pitch. Flores, who has 22 home runs, grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.
“She’s fierce out there,” Palomino-Cardoza said of McQuillin. “She keeps throwin’ and keeps goin’ and that’s what we need from her. She’s a senior. She’s going to go all out for us and we’re going to go all out for her.
“We expect nothing less.”
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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.