Friday night proved to be memorable for the Wildcats in more ways than one.
Arizona is off to its second-best Pac-12 start (14-0), clinching the Stanford series with a five-inning run-rule 9-1 win in Game 2. The Wildcats’ best conference start came in 1994, when Arizona won 24 straight to start Pac-12 play.
But the win at Hillenbrand Stadium on Friday also marked coach Mike Candrea’s 1,600th career victory. For Candrea, who’s been at the helm of Arizona’s program for 34 years, the momentous occasion just means one thing: He’s getting older.
“I always go back to the coaches that have coached there and the players that have played here and to be able to sustain a level for this long takes a lot of different people,” Candrea said. “So, it’s really a tribute to all that have ever been in this program.”
When Candrea started coaching in the mid-1980s, he didn’t give much thought to how his career would go. He came to Arizona on a whim — not caring about the money, just the opportunity to coach softball at a high level.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing what I’m doing,” Candrea said. “I’ve always had a passion for the sport.”
Catcher Dejah Mulipola was part of the 2017 squad that celebrated Candrea’s 1,500th win, and said Friday it was an amazing feeling to be part of her coach’s next monumental milestone.
“Just to see this is another great accomplishment,” Mulipola said.
She led the offense with a perfect night at the plate — scoring five of the Wildcats’ runs on two homers and a single. Candrea said Mulipola made some adjustments after the series opener to stand a little taller in the box — and it worked.
“Instead of getting underneath that pitch, she’s squaring it up,” Candrea said. “But yeah, she looked fabulous.”
Mulipola got the scoring started in the second inning with a lead-off homer. She added to the score the next inning when she hit her second home run of the game (third of the weekend and 20th of the season) to score Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza and Reyna Carranco, who had each singled.
At the top of the fifth, after giving up a home run and a single, Candrea decided to pull out starting pitcher Alyssa Denham and put in Hannah Bowen.
Throughout the first four innings, Denham had only given up one hit while walking one batter and striking out four. Candrea felt Stanford was starting to read Denham’ pitches better, resulting in the pitching change that brought in Hannah Bowen as the closer.
It was another opportunity to explore the bullpen’s depth.
“I just felt like they were starting to square up the ball a little bit and we’ve got some pitching,” Candrea said. “So the only way I’m going to know what these kids do is to put them in these situations. And Hannah has earned that right. She threw well against Grand Canyon and has come in and done a good job against Oregon State. She’s ready.”
After Bowen and the defense got out of the jam, Arizona’s offense stepped it up another gear to end the game early.
A Palomino-Cardoza single and walks by Carranco and Jessie Harper handed Mulipola a bases-loaded situation with no outs. A single to Stanford’s third baseman, who just missed the out, extended the lead and kept the bases loaded.
After Malia Martinez drew a walk, Hillary Edior doubled down the left field line to score Carranco and Harper.
Needing one more run to end the game early, Rylee Pierce singled on a 1-1 count and brought in Carli Campbell, who was pinch running for Martinez.
While Candrea has looking forward to possibly playing some closer games, he’s not going to complain about the run rules and shutouts.
During its 19-game winning streak, Arizona has pitched 10 shutouts. The Wildcats have outscored their Pac-12 opponents 130-12 so far in conference play.
“I’ve liked the production that we’ve had,” Candrea said. “Stanford is a good team. They really are. They’re well-coached, they’re very patient at the plate, they do a lot of things right — so I feel good that we came out and did what we did.”