University of Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea tried to send a message to his team with a post-game talk after Saturday’s game, and early on Sunday, it looked like the point had sunk in.
But No. 4 UCLA proved to be just too good, cruising to a 10-3 victory Sunday night to complete a dominating sweep of the No. 12 Wildcats, who have now dropped six straight.
Arizona couldn’t take advantage of a bases-loaded, no-outs situation early on. The Bruins did and rolled from there at Hillenbrand Stadium.
UCLA, 37-3 overall, 12-3 in Pac-12 play, has won the last seven consecutive series between the two teams.
“The minute something happens, we have a hard time competing,” said Candrea. “Now, we are competing against ourselves and not the other team.”
UA (27-12, 6-9) is now on a six-game losing streak. The Wildcats will face New Mexico State in a doubleheader at home Wednesday to try to turn things around before heading to ASU next weekend.
Over the weekend, the Wildcats kept leaving runners stranded. Friday night they left Dejah Mulipola on third after her leadoff triple, then scored only one run with the bases loaded Saturday night. Facing a bases-loaded situation in the third Sunday, the UA could not get one run across.
“I’m searching for answers,” said Candrea, whose team was swept at Oregon last week. “We’re not doing anything well and it’s wearing on us. We’re trying to find glimpses of confidence and success, and unfortunately we are playing the Washingtons, the Oregons and UCLAs. You have to be on your A game. And now we are competing with our C game. It’s disappointing.”
The Bruins crushed 10 hits, and the Wildcats once again had no answer for pitcher Rachel Garcia, who pitched 4ª innings. Garcia gave up three hits, struck out nine and walked none.
“She’s very, very aggressive and knows her batters and knows how she wants to pitch them,” said the UA’s Ivy Davis, who hit her first home run of the season — a two-run shot in the second to tie the game at 3. “Even when we made adjustments, she did, too.”
It didn’t take long for the Bruins to figure out Wildcats’ ace Taylor McQuillin. She gave up a three-spot in the first inning to Garcia — a home run over the left-center field fence — her third of the weekend.
A few bright spots for the Wildcats were two big home runs. Ashleigh Hughes’ first-pitch blast over the left-field fence in the bottom of the first closed the gap to 3-1. And Davis’ in the second inning tied the game a 3.
“She is squaring the bat and stepped in and did a good job,” said Candrea. “She didn’t back down and took good, healthy swings.”
In top of the third, the Bruins scored three runs to take a 6-3 lead. When the Wildcats failed to answer in their half of the inning, the entire stadium seemed to sense trouble.
McQuillin picked up the loss. She is now 18-8 and her ERA is 2.06. She was knocked out in that three-run third inning. Alyssa Denham came in and ended the UCLA rally on eight pitches. She got Madeline Jelenicki to hit a drive right back to her for an out, doubled the runner off third base and got Paige Halstead to ground out to Alyssa Palomino at first.
To honor the great Jackie Robinson, an alum of UCLA who on April 15, 1947, broke the Major League Baseball color barrier, the Bruins wore the number 42 on their visors.