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.
Who else is still hyped after that extra-inning thriller?!@dejahmulipola came in clutch with a two-run homer in the top of the eighth to lead @ArizonaSoftball to a 3-1 win over #Pac12SB rival UW.#WCWS | #BackThePac pic.twitter.com/C6Dnt5osyM— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) May 30, 2019
BY THE NUMBERS: These are the three best pitchers in college softball
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.