By Ed Strong
University of Arizona’s Taylor McQuillin held one of the most dangerous lineups in the country to nine hits spread across 15.1 innings this weekend.
She also suffered three losses.
Washington ace Taran Alvelo outdueled the Wildcats star as the top-ranked Huskies not only maintained their No. 1 rank but avenged last year’s sweep at then-No. 4 Arizona. The Huskies swept No. 9 Arizona 2-1, 4-3, and 2-0. That marked the first time UW has swept Arizona since 2010, when All-American Danielle Lawrie was still donning the purple and gold.
For a pitcher whose swagger in the circle is a key part of her game, Alvelo is remarkably soft-spoken. She’s extremely quick to deflect praise onto others whenever possible, and usually defers to her teammates to answer questions in a group setting. But when the topic switched to the Huskies’ nightmare in the desert last year, that seemed to light a fire in her eyes.
“You always want to move past it,” she said. “Last year is last year. But I think a lot of us that came back thought ‘OK, let’s give them a little taste of their own medicine.’ We didn’t bring it up [as a team] Friday or yesterday, but coming in this morning, knowing that we had the two wins under our belt, we felt ‘Let’s just finish this thing.’”
Coach Tarr wouldn’t go quite so far as saying that this was the best she’s ever seen Alvelo in a three-day stretch but was particularly impressed with the intangibles shown by her star junior.
“Probably this early in the year (this is the best she’s been). Especially having to face the same team three times in a row.”
Alvelo’s dominance on Sunday in particular was impressive. A one-out single from Ashleigh Hughes in the top of the first was the only blemish on her otherwise perfect line. Arizona rarely even made hard contact. Alvelo’s overall line on the weekend: 17 innings, three hits, one earned run, three walks, 26 strikeouts. A solo homer by the Wildcats’ Alyssa Palomino in the sixth inning of game one accounted for the only run against her.
The first two games ended in walk-off fashion. On Saturday, freshman catcher Emma Helm drew a leadoff walk in the eighth. Maggie Gallagher popped up her bunt attempt to Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola and then Taryn Atlee laced a one-out double off the wall in right-center. Helm scored from first, sliding in well ahead of a tag attempt.
In game one, Huskies senior left fielder Julia DePonte ended the first game by blasting a solo home run that caromed off of a light fixture in left-center and back onto the field. But, Arizona suffered an injury scare.
In the top of the eighth inning with two outs and a runner at second base, Reyna Carranco was hit in the facemask by an errant fastball from Alvelo and fell hard. The ball wedged itself between the mask and the main part of her batting helmet. She was kept out for the rest of the series (concussion) but did remain with the team after a hospital stay on Friday night. Carranco is expected to undergo further medical tests in Tucson.