The Arizona Wildcats are rocket-hot, the winners of 20 straight games and owners of three-game sweeps against their first five Pac-12 opponents.
The UA, which starts a three-game series at Cal on Friday, sits in the Top 5 in six different polls — the USA Today/NFCA Coaches (No. 5), USA Softball (No. 4), Fast Pitch News (No. 4), College Sports Madness (No. 3), Softball America (No. 3), and NCAA Women’s Softball RPI (No. 3).
The USA Today/NFCA ranking is the Wildcats’ highest since 2017.
While Arizona’s bats have been consistently solid, it’s a non-position player — Hillary Edior — who has become a surprise contributor to the offensive machine. Over her last 23 at-bats dating back to early March, the senior is hitting .565 with two doubles and two home runs. She’s done so as a designated player and pinch hitter, focusing almost exclusively on hitting. Edior, who is listed as a catcher and first baseman, has made just five putouts in the field.
Despite her role as a specialist, Edior is considered one of the team’s more vocal leaders.
“Her growth throughout the last four years has been incredible,” teammate Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza said. “She’s someone I know everyone can go to to talk, to just get through stuff that they’re going through and get help when they need it. She’s a leader in that aspect, just being someone to always talk to and not being scared to go up and say anything.”
The ability to speak up when needed is an attribute Edior picked up at home. The Los Angeles native is one of nine children.
“Growing up in a big family, you have to have a voice or you don’t get heard,” Edior said.
Because she falls near the middle of the pack — Edior is the fourth of nine — she felt her family, especially her older brothers, were often overprotective of her. In eighth grade, Edior wanted to attend a school dance. Her brothers gave her a hard time, but Edior spoke up about how badly she wanted to go and have a date.
They backed off — for a little while. They still look out for their little sister.
“I’m like, ‘I’m an adult now. You’ve got to back off,’” Edior said.
With her personality and the way she’s been hitting lately, UA coach Mike Candrea said he feels Edior still has plenty of potential left in her. In 42 at-bats this season, Edior is hitting .333; her two home runs have nearly matched the three she blasted in her first three seasons combined, and her .524 slugging percentage is nearly 150 points higher than last year’s total.
Sometime this weekend, Edior will set a career high for at-bats in a season — and the Wildcats still have nine regular-season games left.
“I’m just really pleased the way she’s stayed engaged, stayed positive, has been a contributor any way that she can,” Candrea said.
The Wildcats’ 34-year skipper said there’s always a worry that players who aren’t getting a lot of playing time, especially seniors, might get disengaged. He hasn’t had that problem with Edior — or anybody else, for that matter — this season.
“I think ‘Hill’ continued to do the things she needed to do every day to be prepared for a start or be prepared to be a pinch hitter, whatever it may be, and it paid off for her,” Candrea said. “I commend her. As a coach, that’s what you would want all your players to be when they’re in particular roles.
“So I wasn’t surprised she’s had success because she’s been preparing very well.”
- Three Wildcats — senior Taylor McQuillin and juniors Jessie Harper and Dejah Mulipola — have been named finalists for USA Softball’s Player of the Year award. There are 26 finalists. Harper and Mulipola lead the Pac-12 with 21 and 20 home runs, respectively, and McQuillin is the Pac-12 leader in shutouts with 10. She has won 17 games so far this season.
- Following this weekend’s series at Cal, Arizona will finish its regular season with a home series against No. 4 Washington and a road series at No. 2 UCLA.
- Arizona’s final six games will all be televised on Pac-12 Arizona.