From an outsider’s view, Arizona softball first baseman Carlie Scupin didn’t always seem relaxed last season. She had a good year, hitting .369 and knocking 19 balls out of the park. She just sometimes appeared stressed.
That’s not the case with Scupin this year. She’s more likely to have a smile on her face when she speaks with the media. She seems to be enjoying herself both on the field and after the game is over. What’s the difference this season for the junior?
“Something that’s helped me this year is maybe just realizing how great the players are around me and that I don’t have to put all the pressure on myself,” Scupin said. “Because if I don’t get it done, the next person in the lineup is gonna get it done…and also, just taking the pressure off and putting it on the other team. Knowing that the pressure’s on the other team and I don’t have to put so much on myself.”
If she’s feeling less pressure, it seems to be showing on the field. While her nine home runs aren’t quite as many as the 11 she had at this point last year, she’s done her damage against a tougher schedule. When Arizona got to Pac-12 play last year, the only ranked teams it had faced were Kentucky and Oklahoma. The Wildcats went 0-2 in those games.
This season, when they faced No. 22 ASU, they had already seen three top 10 teams in five games. They went 2-3 in those games and were close even in the losses. That step up in competition hasn’t hurt Scupin’s performance relative to her peers.
In addition to being second in the Pac-12 and tied for sixth in the country in home runs, Scupin’s contributions have put her third in the conference in extra-base hits (16), fourth in slugging percentage (.833), tied for fourth in total bases (60), tied for fifth in doubles (7), tied for seventh in RBIs (27), tied for 15th in hits (26), 20th in on-base percentage (.453), and 25th in batting average (.361). Her combination of consistency and power have her hitting third in the lineup after starting the season in the five hole.
Scupin is at the heart of a consistent lineup. Eleven of the 14 players whose roles include appearing both on offense and defense are hitting over .300 and a twelfth just dropped below .300 on Sunday. They aren’t hitting it out of the park as much as in the past, but they are hitting a lot of doubles and stealing more bases than they typically do.
That consistency and knowledge that the team can score even if she’s not hitting home runs back up Scupin’s feelings about less pressure. Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe sees her player putting less pressure on herself, but the coach also thinks that there have been other changes by Scupin.
“I think her approach has been really good at the plate,” Lowe said. “She’s not trying to do too much… and just has been consistent in the approach, what she wants to swing at, is okay taking strikes to get to where she needs to go. And I think not just her but our whole team does a good job of communicating amongst each other to learn to move on to the next at-bat.”
Lowe also sees her players enjoying the chess match between hitter and pitcher instead of trying to prove something on an individual level.
“I think they’re having fun competing and they’re making it about beating somebody and not trying to be perfect themselves,” she said. “And I think when you’re competing against a pitcher and just trying to figure out what her next move is, it takes a lot of that pressure off your shoulders as a hitter.”
Arizona gets its next chance to figure out a pitcher’s next move when the Wildcats host the New Mexico State Aggies for a doubleheader on Wednesday, Mar. 15. The first game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. MST, but there is a possibility of afternoon rain in the forecast for Tucson.
New Mexico State Aggies (11-7, 0-0 WAC) @ No. 17 Arizona Wildcats (17-7, 2-1 Pac-12)
When: Wednesday, Mar. 15 at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. MST
Where: Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
Streaming: The games will be streamed on Arizona Live Stream 2.
Stats: Stats for game 1 and game 2 are available at Arizona Live Stats
Rankings: Arizona is ranked No. 17 in the NFCA/USA Today poll, No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll, No. 17 by Softball America, No. 17 by D1 Softball, and No. 35 in the official RPI.
NMSU is not ranked in the four polls. The Aggies are No. 84 in the RPI.
Caitlin Lowe says: “New Mexico State’s always feisty. We had a tough couple games there last year and they hit the ball well, and they figure out how to how to compete. Can’t take anyone lightly. They’re a great team and they have a deep pitching staff. So just being able to keep the same kind of approach and get on people early and just keep attacking. I think that’s what I feel great about at ASU.”
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