Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola struck out three times on Friday against UMBC without collecting a hit, but she turned things around Saturday to lead the Wildcats to a dominating 12-6 win over Ole Miss in the winner’s bracket game at Hillenbrand Stadium.
She hit two home runs and totaled five RBIs.
No. 11 Arizona (38-13) advances to the Tucson Regional final, where it will play Sunday at 5 p.m. against an undetermined opponent. The team it plays must win twice to win the regional. The Wildcats need only one win.
Ole Miss was the school Arizona beat in 2019 in the Super Regional to go to the program’s first Women’s College World Series in nine years.
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 22, 2021
Sharlize Palacios, also a catcher, hit a grand slam. Palacios and Mulipola went a combined 5-for-7 with three home runs and nine RBIs.
Mulipola, who went 2-for-3, produced her second-most RBI total of the season in a single game, with the most coming against BYU, when she drove in six.
Here’s Mulipola talking about her approach at the plate and discussing what she was seeing during her two home runs:
Palacios’ big hit came in the fifth inning with two outs, and the Rebels walked Mulipola to get to her, hoping the pressure of the situation would be too much for the freshman and to create the potential for a force out at any base.
That didn’t happen. She battled herself into a 3-2 count, and on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, she hit a grand slam to put Arizona up 8-0 in the second.
This is the first time Palacios has experienced postseason NCAA softball, and so far, through two games, she has excelled, going 6-for-8 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
Here’s Palacios talking about what she was seeing at the plate and discussing how she has stepped up so far this postseason:
Alyssa Denham got the start in the circle and was looking to bounce back after a rough series against UCLA where she had an apparent elbow injury that affected her pitching.
Through the first two innings, Denham was able to work around some base runners to put zeros up on the scoreboard. But, in the third inning, things started to unravel as Ole Miss got itself on the board from a two-run blast by Abbey Latham.
That momentum carried over into the fourth inning for the Rebels as they were able to score five runs to cut the lead to 8-6.
During the inning, an errant throw hit baserunner Tate Whitley in the back and caused issues for the Wildcats.
Denham went on to give up a home run to Autumn Gillespie before getting pulled for pitcher Mariah Lopez to close out the fourth.
Lopez and Hanah Bowen finished the game and shut out the Rebels the rest of the way, going a combined 3 1/3 innings. They allowed four hits and had two strikeouts.
Here’s Mike Candrea talking about his pitching staff and discussing what he liked from his team’s performance:
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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.