Arizona Softball

Wildcats continue long-ball barrage, finish off sweep of Utes

2014-04-28T00:00:00Z Wildcats continue long-ball barrage, finish off sweep of UtesBy Jonathan Gold Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A day after a surge on par with a lightning bolt, the Arizona Wildcats suffered a power outage.

They only hit four home runs.

Arizona’s blast-offense led the way once more, and the Wildcats rebounded from a shaky first frame to finish off a three-game sweep of visiting Utah with an 8-3 win on Sunday afternoon at Hillenbrand Stadium.

On Saturday, Arizona slugged (39-9, 12-6 Pac-12) a program-record eight home runs, three by Katiyana Mauga, two by Hallie Wilson and Kellie Fox and one by Kelsey Rodriguez. On Sunday, the aerial display was led by a new cast of characters, aside from Wilson.

The senior leadoff hitter smacked her 12th homer of the season, Pac-12-leading Chelsea Goodacre drilled another one, and Mo Mercado and Lauren Young also teed off.

Including their performance in a midweek doubleheader sweep of New Mexico State, the Wildcats had 22 home runs for the week.

“We’re all just incredibly comfortable, especially here at home,” Wilson said. “We just have so much fun when we get to play at Hillenbrand. There’s something about the ball going over the fence here that is an entirely separate feeling from anywhere else.”

Early on, it appeared that Arizona would need all the power it could get.

Utah managed six base runners among its first eight batters against Wildcats starter Nancy Bowling, scoring three quick runs, two on a Bridget Castro single and one on a bases-loaded walk.

The rough start prompted Arizona coach Mike Candrea to pull Bowling for Estela Piñon, and Piñon proceeded to shut Utah down for the next 6ª innings, allowing one hit while walking five and striking out eight.

“I felt like I was on my game. I changed a little bit of my game plan — more trying to throw pitches I don’t really throw,” Piñon said. “They saw me the whole series, and when they’ve seen you that much, you have to change up some things. I tried to change the strike zone, tried to have them guessing.”

With Piñon clicking on most – not all – cylinders, the Arizona offense needed just a pair of big innings to pull it out.

Goodacre led off the second inning with her 20th home run of the season and the Wildcats scored two more on a Courtney Rodriguez RBI single and a Wilson sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3.

In the bottom of the third, Young hit a three-run home run to left field to give Arizona the lead, and Wilson homered to lead off the fourth to cap the scoring.

The Wildcats finished with 10 hits on the afternoon, including three from Mo Mercado and two from Mauga.

“I’m definitely surprised — last year we didn’t do too well, but we’ve picked it up this year,” Young said. “It’s great to see our 1-through-9 hitters all hitting. Once we were more aggressive, we started swinging at more strikes, we put the ball in play and good things happen.”

But as pleased as Candrea has been about the aggressiveness at the plate, he’s been as frustrated by the tentativeness in the pitcher’s circle.

“Sometimes we go out there and we try to be so damn careful not to get hit and we start walking people,” Candrea said. “I’d rather see a line drive to left field than a damn walk right now. A walk tells me we don’t have command of what we’re doing.”

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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