For Arizona’s players, this game against Team USA was an opportunity of a lifetime that most softball players never get the chance to experience.
It was also a chance for coaches and players to be reunited with their former player/teammate Dejah Mulipola. Before the game, Mulipola and the USA team gifted coach Mike Candrea a USA jacket to commemorate the event.
The game showcased some of the best players at the collegiate level versus possibly the best softball team in the world. After a quick 5-0 start for the USA, Arizona was able to battle back, cutting the lead down to 5-4 heading into the final two innings. That was all Arizona could come up with as Team USA gave Monica Abbott the ball in the seventh, Abbott sat down the batters in order, to close out the game.
Arizona gave the ball to Hanah Bowen to start the game in front of a sold-out Rita Hillenbrand Stadium. After a rough start of giving up a three-run first inning, Bowen was able to bounce back in her second inning, giving up just one run.
Team USA added one more run in the third inning off of Marissa Schuld, that would be all they could get as Arizona was able to blank them the rest of the way.
The reason why they were able to keep the USA off the board was because of Alyssa Denham and Mariah Lopez. Both pitchers combined to go four innings giving up just two hits while collecting five strikeouts of shutout softball.
On the offensive end for Arizona, it was all Jessie Harper, who went off, showcasing her talents against the best pitchers in the world. Harper homered not once, but twice to account for all of Arizona’s four runs.
Her first home run was off legend Cat Osterman for a solo shot to deep left-center field. Then, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, Harper hit an opposite-field three-run blast to right off of former UCLA pitcher Ally Carda to draw her team within one run.
Then, the comeback was all over for Arizona as Abbot came in and faced Harper to start the bottom of the seventh. Abbot was able to quit Harper’s bat by striking out the power hitter, silencing the Arizona crowd.
The next two batters would strike out as well to end what was not only a well-played game but a great night for the sport of softball.
After the game, Mulipola shared what it meant to be back in Tucson for this special event.
Coach Mike Candrea after the game, talked about what having Mulipola meant to him. Plus, some advice for Team USA as they prepare to compete for gold in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
After the game, USA coach Ken Eriksen shared his thoughts about Mulipola and what she brings to the team.
In 2008, Abbott was the youngest player on Team USA’s roster that was coached by Candrea that fell just short of a gold medal. Now she is the veteran prescience on the 2020 roster with another shot at the gold.