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Arizona cruised to a sweep of Stanford — the Wildcats’ fifth Pac-12 sweep of the season — on an explosive offensive performance in the third inning Saturday. The Wildcats scored 12 of their runs in the inning, on the way to a 13-2 mercy-rule victory.

Arizona’s win in the series finale at Hillenbrand Stadium extended its winning streak to 20 games.

Center fielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza said the team has been playing great since it got back to playing “Arizona softball” and keeping it simple.

“I think after our Florida State series, we kind of knew that we could play with anybody … and be able to play one game at a time and not worry about the future,” Palomino-Cardoza said.

Coach Mike Candrea was happy with the team’s continued improvement in the Stanford series.

“That’s what you have to do,” he said. “I think in this league, you kind of have to feel things out and make adjustments and that’s the name of the game. I thought we did a good job of that. I like where we’re playing right now — we’ve just got to continue.”

The No. 7-ranked Wildcats (38-7, 15-0 Pac-12) first got on the board with an RBI single from Hannah “Peanut” Martinez in the second inning.

And then the real fun started.

In the third inning, Palomino-Cardoza went from making a diving catch to end the top of the frame, to hitting a lead-off homer to spark Arizona’s blazing bats.

Palomino-Cardoza said she was just playing the game.

“Taylor (McQuillin) is throwing a heck of a game,” Palomino-Cardoza said. “So I think helping her out any way and just needing to score more than one run — I think that just all transitioned to the 12 runs.”

A Jessie Harper single and a pair of walks loaded the bases. Malia Martinez doubled to make it 4-0.

A hit by pitch, two walks and a sac fly forced the Cardinal to make their second pitching change of the inning with just one out. But Arizona continued steamrolling, scoring three more runs on two hits and a sac fly.

Stanford found itself in a bases-loaded jam for the fifth time that inning, and Martinez took advantage again, hitting a grand slam into Candrea’s Corner.

“I think in the middle of that inning, I was just waiting for an out or two to happen,” McQuillin said. “When it didn’t start happening, I just kind of came out and had Izzy (Pacho) come warm me up a couple of pitches to stay loose because it had been a hot minute before we had to go back out there.”

Stanford managed its first pair of hits — a single and a triple — to score a run in the fourth.

Gina Snyder took over in the circle for Arizona in the fifth and allowed just one more run on a solo homer.

UA didn’t quite realize it at the start of the season, but after a strong nonconference schedule featuring ranked teams such as Oklahoma, Florida State and Florida, Palomino-Cardoza said the team realized what it could achieve this year.

“This team still has a ways to go and I think that’s what’s really incredible,” she said. “This isn’t our best and when we are our best, it’s going to be scary.”

Contact reporter Norma Gonzalez at 520-262-3265 or ngonzalez@tucson.com.