It wasn’t a walk-off, but Arizona ended its nine-year absence from the Women’s College World Series in exciting fashion.
The No. 6 Wildcats topped their Pac-12 rivals, the No. 3 Washington Huskies, in eight innings, 3-1. Taylor McQuillin pitched for Arizona in the win, and while she tossed another stellar performance for the Wildcats, it was the woman behind the plate who provided the late-game heroics.
Tied 1-1 in the top of the eighth, Washington notched the first two outs with ease, getting Arizona’s Alyssa Palomino to strike out and forcing home run queen Jessie Harper to pop-out to third base. But Malia Martinez kept Arizona alive in the inning, singling to right field off the second pitch she saw from Washington’s Taran Alvelo.
With the go-ahead run on-base, the stage was set for Dejah Mulipola to save the day.
The NFCA Catcher of the Year squared up at the plate and launched Alvelo’s seventh pitch, a 2-2 offering, over the wall in center field to score Martinez and herself, giving Arizona a 3-1 lead.
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In Arizona’s 23rd WCWS appearance, the game was won on Mulipola’s 23rd home run of the season.
Mulipola called the shots from behind the plate too on Thursday, catching McQuillin’s seven-strikeout outing. McQuillin tossed 141 pitches and allowed just six hits in eight innings.
A 5-foot-8 junior from Garden Grove, California, Mulipola has been a consistent hitter for Arizona all season. She has a .316 batting average, 51 hits, 55 RBIs, 49 runs scored, a .778 slugging percentage and a .476 on-base percentage.
Arizona’s first run of the game came via a solo home run from Harper in the sixth inning, her 29th dinger of the season. Washington responded in the bottom half of the inning, when Sami Reynolds drove a pitch over the fence in right-center field.
Thursday was the first time this season that Arizona had beaten Washington, falling in each contest of a three-game series earlier this month.
The Wildcats advance in the winner’s bracket now and will face the winner of Thursday’s second game — UCLA vs. Minnesota — on Friday at 4 p.m.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.