By Tom Callahan
Junior Taylor McQuillin has grown quite a bit over the course of the 2018 Arizona softball season, and thanks to her that season will extend at least one more weekend.
The left-handed hurler not only started two of Arizona’s three wins on the weekend at the NCAA Regional tournament in Tucson, but was called upon just four outs into the finale to stop the bleeding and help her team to advance to a Super Regional berth with a 4-3 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Sunday.
“The storyline is Taylor McQuillin,” said Arizona Head Coach Mike Candrea following Sunday’s game. “I think she has grown a lot mentally. Sometimes you have to go through the trials and tribulations of this game and it makes you stronger. I think finally she’s starting to understand what she has to do to stay in control of herself in tough situations. Today she was the pitcher I thought she would be when we recruited her.”
Candrea also believe that McQuillin’s development has coincided in her growing trust and relationship with U of A pitching coach Taryne Mowatt who joined the coaching staff in October. A former Wildcat All-American pitcher, Mowatt was a standout in the circle herself garnering 2007 Women’s College World Series MVP honors for Arizona. Not only did she help the Wildcats to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, but her MVP effort set WCWS records for innings pitched (60), strikeouts (76) and complete games with eight. She even won two ESPY awards for her performance that week. So Mowatt may be the best possible mentor for McQuillin: someone who knows what it’s like to pitch for the Wildcats on the biggest stage and succeed.
“Here’s one thing about Taryne not many people know,” said Candrea. “She’s got a great memory. When you’re calling pitches that would be one of the greatest things you could have. When it comes to the game she remembers things and remembers hitters and remembers what happened. I think it’s amazing. I think her and Taylor really work well together. Taylor started gaining confidence in her ability to call a game. The one thing that I’ve noticed is we’ve always given Taylor the opportunity to shake off pitches and as the year went on she was shaking off fewer and fewer.”
On Sunday, McQuillin faced perhaps her biggest test yet, coming in after starter Alyssa Denham gave up three solo home runs to the first eight batters she faced. The Mission Viejo, CA native proceeded to immediately get a double play to end the Bulldogs threat in the second and retire the first 13 batters she faced before issuing a walk to start the seventh inning – the only batter she allowed to reach base.
“Coming in in relief is a bit of a different feeling,” said McQuillin. “My goal is just to keep runs off the board. My team had worked so hard to score three runs so I had to go out there and shut the other team down so they could continue the job.”
Arizona would indeed find the winning run in the fifth inning as McQuillin stood fast, striking out five while allowing only the aforementioned walk en route to the win.
The Wildcats now have a showdown set with third-ranked UCLA starting Thursday, May 24 at Super Regionals and Arizona softball fans know that the team will go as far as McQuillin’s left arm can carry them.