Gina Snyder is making a compelling case to become a fixture in Arizona’s rotation.
After the walk-on twirled a four-hit shutout vs. Team Japan last weekend, head coach Mike Candrea was anxious to see how the senior would follow up on what some viewed as a breakout performance.
The answer? Another dominant outing.
Snyder tossed four more scoreless innings as Arizona softball run-ruled Kent State 10-0 to sweep Friday’s doubleheader after they beat Drake earlier in the day.
It was technically Snyder’s first appearance of the season, since her outing against Team Japan was an exhibition. It was also the Tucson native’s first-ever start at Rita Hillenbrand Stadium.
“It’s one thing starting, but it’s another thing starting at Hillenbrand,” said Snyder, a Sahuaro High product. “It’s an indescribable feeling.”
Self-described as an effectively-wild pitcher, Snyder only needed 50 pitches to cruise through four innings. Accenting a hard fastball with a curve and screwball, Snyder struck out seven, walked none, and surrendered just one hit, before being replaced by Hanah Bowen to begin the fifth.
Candrea pumped the brakes earlier in the week when reflecting on Snyder’s outing vs. Japan, saying the Japanese aren’t known for their hitting, but he couldn’t downplay this performance.
“Right now, Taylor (McQuillin) is still my go-to and then we have a really good support, but Gina has climbed the ladder,” he said. “That’s one thing I can tell you right now. She’s definitely earned it. Tonight was a big night to see how she would react and she looked really good.”
Snyder only made three appearances last season and thinks she has done enough to have a place in the rotation, though she would prefer to let her game do the talking.
“I don’t think about that,” she said. “I just think any opportunity is an opportunity to do what I can and have fun. It’s my last year, so why not?”
The senior was supported by a red-hot offense that notched 12 hits and scored in every inning but the third, including a seven-run fourth. Candrea was happy with the way the Wildcats got on top of the rise ball and did not try to do too much at the plate.
The Wildcats (12-5) logged 12 hits against Kent State and Jessie Harper homered again after crushing two long balls in the first game of Friday’s double header, giving her nine on the season, the most in the Pac-12.
“My big thing with Jessie is she swung at some good pitches and when she does, she can hit the ball out of any part of the ballpark,” Candrea said. “When she gets a little crazy she gets herself out because she loses track of what she’s trying to do and loses that patience. But when she’s a patient hitter and gets good pitches, she can hit with anyone. I think we have numerous kids like that.”
Including Izzy Pacho and Peanut Martinez, who capitalized on a rare start, both driving in a pair of runs. Pacho, a Tucson native, blasted her first homer of the season, sending a laser to the opposite field.
“I was very proud of Peanut Martinez. I thought she stepped up and did a nice job. Ivy (Davis) did a really nice job and then I was very excited about Izzy because she finally squared one up,” Candrea said. “She does that all the time in batting practice, so they are starting to grow up a little bit, but I really liked our approach tonight as well as I’ve liked it all year.”
As for the pitching, Candrea could have some difficult decisions to make moving forward. McQuillin is the bonafide ace, but it gets fuzzy after that, though not because of a lack of options.
Last year’s No. 2 starter, Alyssa Denham, has been roughed up in her last two outings, allowing seven runs (six earned) over her last nine innings, while the other hurlers — Snyder, Bowen, Marissa Schuld and Vanessa Foreman — have allowed just three runs in 22 innings (not including Snyder’s seven scoreless innings vs. Japan).
“She’s hanging some pitches,” Candrea said of Denham. “Sometimes you can hang pitches and get away with them. And sometimes when you hang pitches, they cost you. She’s just in one of those modes right now, but she’ll get out of it. She’s in a good place and that’s why we have the staff that we have. Truthfully, you’re not going to see us roll someone out there seven innings all the time, so it’s really important that I get some of these other kids in the game and see how they react.”
So far so good for Snyder.
“It’s awesome that she finally got her start in Rita,” Harper said. “She did amazing against Japan and she kept that rolling through today.”
Here is what Mike Candrea had to say after Arizona Softball’s wins over Drake and Kent StatePosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, March 1, 2019