To say Arizona softball has dominated the Territorial Cup Series with Arizona State lately might be an understatement.
The Sun Devils haven’t won a series against their in-state rivals since 2015, and the Wildcats swept the most recent meeting in 2019 without allowing a single run across three games.
Following the nine-game road trip that saw Arizona struggle against UCF, Florida State and Washington pitching, the bats from Tucson are hot again.
No Easy Out One Through Nine
Anyone that follows softball knows about the Wildcats’ core that includes Olympian Dejah Mulipola, potential future all-time home run queen Jessie Harper, and multi-time All-American Alyssa Palomino.
Muliapola sits second in the Pac-12 for home runs (13) and RBI (40) behind Arizona State’s Maddi Hackbarth. Harper took some time to regain her power stroke, but has hit five homers since March 26.
However, it’s the younger Wildcat bats that have added another dynamic to the lineup. Redshirt freshman Janelle Meono has made herself a staple as Arizona’s leadoff hitter. Coming into the week, she led the Pac-12 in batting average with a .479 clip.
Then there’s the additional home run swings of true freshmen Carlie Scupin and redshirt freshman Sharlize Palacios, the younger sister of former Sun Devil, Sashel. Palacios has taken on the role of protecting Mulipola and Harper in the middle of the order.
She has eight home runs and a .358 batting average. Scupin’s natural power has been talked about a lot in Tucson. She’s slowed down of late, but as demonstrated earlier in the year when she had 15 RBIs in one weekend. Her power can come in bunches.
Arizona also welcomed back former Pac-12 batting champ Reyna Carranco from injury recently. There’s also third baseman Malia Martinez, who might not have the best overall numbers, but tends to have a lot of clutch at-bats.
Sun Devils Helping Out Their Pitching
Arizona State’s offense can’t do much worse than the last time these two teams played. The Sun Devils only had six combined hits in 17 innings in their trip to Tucson back in 2019.
Most of that was against the graduated Taylor McQuillin, but the Wildcats’ top pitcher this season, Alyssa Denham, has been plenty successful too. Denham has allowed one run to Arizona State across 12 innings and two starts in her career.
Although, the Sun Devils might be catching the Arizona staff at the right time. Denham has had mixed results lately, with two shutouts and then two separate appearances allowing five earned runs.
Mariah Lopez has surrendered four home runs in eight-plus conference innings and has lost her place as the second arm for the Wildcats. Instead, it’s been Hanah Bowen, who holds a 1.08 ERA in 13 innings of work against the Pac.
Sophomores Jazmine Hill and Alynah Torres had their breakout weekends for ASU last week against Stanford. Previously, each had their share of struggles in their first time against Pac-12 pitching.
For Arizona State to compete in the series, those two have to stay hot at the plate and take pressure off the Hackbarth twins. Bella Loomis’ ability to flip the lineup will also play a huge role for scoring runs.
Asking the youthful duo of Lindsay Lopez and Allison Royalty to be nearly perfect against a stacked lineup won’t bode well for the Sun Devils. The offense certainly needs to continue its momentum.
Other Pac-12 Notes:
- UCLA returned from its COVID-19 pause to take three of four in Eugene from Oregon. The Ducks made it a battle but it was a reminder how good Rachel Garcia and the Bruins are. Despite not having Bubba Nickles due to injury and Oregon’s Brooke Yanez pitching well, the defending champions still took the series. UCLA’s roster feels like The Avengers and Garcia is The Hulk that can bail them out when needed.
- Even though they lost the series, the Ducks seem to have proven they are the second best team in the Pac-12 conference. Yanez has the arm to carry them to the Women’s College World Series and Oregon continues to have clutch at-bats from different players like it did from Allee Bunker this past weekend.
- Washington has reached its toughest stretch of the season. The Huskies host Oregon this weekend before heading to Los Angeles to face UCLA. Ace Gabbie Plain has been the only consistent piece of Washington this season. The Huskies managed nine runs against Oregon State despite sweeping the Pac-12 conference series. Kelley Lynch threw 6.1 no-hit innings in the non-conference slate before allowing the two-run walk-off homer because she only got one run from her offense. Plain also threw 20 of the 21 innings of conference results. The next eight games will reveal how far the Australian can carry Washington this season.