Arizona’s Murderer’s Row of a lineup this season has a potential college softball career home run leader, a U.S. Olympian, and two elite freshmen known for their power.
Don’t forget, it also has a veteran who has leadership traits of her dad, who is in the U.S. Navy, and also chose Arizona over rival UCLA in the recruiting process.
Jessie Harper is closing in on Lauren Chamberlain’s NCAA home run record, Dejah Mulipola is gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics in a couple of months, and Sharlize Palacios and Carlie Scupin are two of the most potent hitters in the game as freshmen. Scupin would be Arizona’s career high school home run hitter at Tucson High if COVID-19 did not get in the way last spring.
Harper, Mulipola, Palacios and Scupin have a combined 59 home runs this season.
Not to be overlooked although she often is among these potent batters: senior third baseman Malia Martinez.
Mike Candrea and her dad Edgar, a Navy veteran, must be proud.
Harper, who calls Martinez her “rock” and “go-to gal,” certainly admires her roommate and best friend.
“She’s been like the strong force between us,” said Harper, a shortstop who has played alongside Martinez throughout their five-year Arizona careers on the left side of the infield.
“She’s very calm, cool and collected. I have 100 percent trust in her.”
She’s so trustworthy of Martinez that she predicted the home run hit by Martinez over the Blue Monster in center field that ignited Arizona’s 12-6 comeback victory over Ole Miss in the Tucson Regional final on Sunday night at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Malia Martinez clears the Blue Monster for a two-run homer. Arizona trails Ole Miss 6-2 in the fourth. pic.twitter.com/6247gHsuOx
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 24, 2021
Malia gets us on the board! 🚀
📺 ESPN3 pic.twitter.com/CnPgX1qPm2
— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) May 24, 2021
Martinez’s blast, her 12th home run of the season, gave Arizona its first two runs in the top of the fourth inning after the Wildcats trailed 6-0.
“I actually called her home run, I’m going to say that, because I knew she was due and I knew she was going to come up big for us,” said Harper of Martinez, who hit her first home run in almost a month, since April 24 against Utah, when she completed a stretch of three straight games with a homer.
“Malia is just that type of hitter where she’s gonna grind and she’s gonna come up big when she needs to.”
Martinez mentioned that the Wildcats have talked about their roles to gain a clear understanding of what is expected of each of them.
“We all know, collectively, that everyone’s role is buying into the program,” she said. “For me, I like to think I try to emphasize that more.”
After going 39 consecutive at-bats without a home run — or any extra-base hits — Martinez launched one of Arizona’s most significant home runs of the season to get the Wildcats offense going after they stranded six runners in the first three innings.
Arizona is headed to the Super Regional at Arkansas next weekend after its potent offense tallied a season-high 19 hits and Mariah Lopez was a calming influence in the circle in the 12-6 win over Ole Miss in the Tucson Regional final. pic.twitter.com/Et8FwousjH
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 24, 2021
Her performance embodied that of Arizona after the Wildcats endured five losses over the last two weeks of the regular season against quality opponents Oregon and UCLA and then overpowered Maryland-Baltimore County and Ole Miss in three games in the Tucson Regional.
The damage by the lineup in the three games: 31 runs and 40 hits with six home runs.
“If you’ve ever been through this, it’s a grind,” Candrea said about the challenges the team faced in the Pac-12. “You know, we kind of knew where we’re at.”
They’re at a good spot with the win, one in which Candrea rated as “right up there” among the many in his 36-year Arizona career because of how the Wildcats “showed grit,” he said, coming back from a 6-0 deficit.
“I think tonight was a really good confidence boost for us, and I think the kids right now feel that they’re invincible, so I hope to carry that (into the Super Regional at Arkansas next weekend).”
Martinez will go into the games at Arkansas continuing her role as an encouraging force for her teammates.
“I have tried to be a leader in more ways than just a role model,” she said. “I’m trying to be more positive. We always try to pick each other up. I always try to remind each and every player of their value and really just try to bring a lot of positivity and confidence to everyone on this team.”
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District