After having its games canceled due to weather conditions in the Texas Classic last weekend, Arizona softball finally was back in action on Friday night for the first time in 11 months playing in a doubleheader against Southern Utah and New Mexico in the Hillenbrand Invitational.
Arizona breezed by Southern Utah in a six-inning 8-0 run-rule win to start the day, and then things didn’t go as expected with New Mexico as the Wildcats struggled through most of the game but pulled away to win 5-2, sweeping the doubleheader to start the season.
In the two games, Arizona only pitched its top two pitchers in Alyssa Denham, and Mariah Lopez, who combined for 13 innings while giving up just one earned run with 16 strikeouts.
Against Southern Utah, Denham was almost untouchable, giving up one hit through six innings. The only time she got into a small jam was in the third inning when she gave up a one-out walk to Southern Utah’s eight-hole hitter but found a way to induce a double play to end the threat.
The New Mexico game was a little more of a challenge for Lopez, who struggled in the third and fifth innings of the game. The Lobos were able to make solid contact, and in the third inning, center fielder Andrea Howard hit a home run over the left-field tall to give her team life. The other run was unearned caused by a throwing error from Malia Martinez at third.
Arizona put points on the board in a multitude of ways with its power across the lineup. The Wildcats racked up home runs from Sharlize Palacios, Hannah “Peanut” Martinez, and Malia in the first game. Then they got a blast from Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza in the second game, coming up clutch by hitting a two-run homer with her team trailing 2-1 at the time.
Here are Peanut and Palomino-Cardoza talking about what it was like to play a softball game for the first time in nearly a year and discussing what they saw from their team during opening day:
Last season, Arizona struggled to find any consistency in the bottom end of its order. In the doubleheader, the Wildcats went 6-for-18 with a home run and three RBIs showing development at the plate from those batters.
Second-year freshman Janelle Meono played in the first game against Southern Utah and batted ninth in the lineup. Meono went an impressive 3-for-3 with a stolen base and accounted for two runs.
Here’s Mike Candrea talking about his team’s performance and discussing what it was like to get back onto the field and playing against opponents instead of each other:
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.