The first two days at the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational were difficult for Arizona softball’s hitters and defense. A complete game by Devyn Netz, persistence by the offense, and a clean defensive effort put an end to that as the No. 10 Wildcats got their first win of the weekend and their first top 10 win of the season by defeating No. 8 Virigina Tech 6-2.
Netz started her third game in as many days. She gave up four hits and two earned runs while striking out six and walking one.
Netz was economical and attacked the zone. Sixty-three of her 78 pitches were strikes. She held the Hokies hitless until the bottom of the fourth when Cameron Fagan got a single. It was just the second baserunner of the game for Va Tech.
On the other side of the ball, Arizona’s hitters struggled to start the game. Blaise Biringer led off with a groundout before Hokies pitcher Emma Lemley struck out nine straight. Lemley ended the game with a career high 17 strikeouts, but it wasn’t enough to get the win.
The string of Ks ended in the top of the fourth when freshman outfielder Dakota Kennedy got a one out double by going down to get a pitcher’s pitch and knocking it into centerfield. Allie Skaggs stepped into the box and pulled one down the left field line for an RBI double. It gave Arizona its first lead since arriving in Florida.
.— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) February 19, 2023
Fire us up, @allieskaggs9! pic.twitter.com/twJrtpCXKl
Designated player Olivia DiNardo kept things going in the next inning when she led off with a double. Centerfielder Kaiah Altmeyer came up with two outs and pitcher Ali Blanchard on second running for DiNardo. The freshman hit an RBI single to score Blanchard and give Arizona the 2-0 lead.
The Hokies got one back on a solo home run by pinch hitter Morgan Overaitis, but Arizona still had the 2-1 lead with just six outs to get at the end of the fifth.
There was nothing doing for either team in the sixth inning, but the Wildcats broke it open in the top of the seventh. Once again, it was DiNardo doing damage. The backup catcher launched a solo homer out of the park to put Arizona up 3-1. It was the first of DiNardo’s career.
FIRST CAREER HOME RUN OLIVIA DINARDO pic.twitter.com/XEFvWPkm61— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) February 19, 2023
A walk by Izzy Pacho was followed by a fielder’s choice by Altmeyer. With Tayler Biehl running for Pacho, the Virginia Tech shortstop pulled the second baseman off the bag with a high throw and Biehl got into second safely. Two on, one out for Biringer.
Arizona’s leadoff hitter had two home runs last season. When she was a freshman at Ole Miss, she had one traditional home run and one inside-the-park home run. The fifth home run of her career scored three and put Arizona up 6-1.
Biringer slowed down as she reached first base, almost as if she didn’t believe it was going out. There was no doubt, though, and the junior trotted around the bases laughing.
OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION.— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) February 19, 2023
First homer of the year for Blaise and the Cats lead 6-1! pic.twitter.com/5o3pKz7Ya2
Netz gave up one run in the bottom of the seventh, but she was able to slam the door with her sixth and final strikeout of the game.
The Wildcats improve to 1-3 in Clearwater and 6-3 on the season. Netz moved to 4-2. The team finishes its stay in Florida with a game against Indiana at 10 a.m. MST on Sunday, Feb. 19. The game will stream on ESPN+.