The future of Arizona softball was on full display on Sunday, and boy is it a bright one. The Wildcats got all kinds of contributions from their underclassmen in a 10-1 run-ruling of Southern Utah.
Flamethrowing freshman Devyn Netz made her debut in the circle and tossed four innings of one-run ball for her first career win. It was closed out by fellow freshman Jessie Fontes, who threw a 1-2-3 fifth.
Freshman first baseman Carlie Scupin clubbed her first career homer, a no-doubter to left that gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead in the second.
Redshirt freshman Sharlize Palacios capped a strong weekend by blasting a grand slam in the fourth—her second homer, fifth hit and eighth RBI of the season.
Fellow redshirt freshman Janelle Meono continued to be an on-base machine, tallying another hit Sunday. The speedy left fielder has five hits and a walk in seven plate appearances.
“We have a bunch of young kids that are waiting their turn because we have all these seniors,” a jubilant Mike Candrea said. “But at the end of the day you got to remember that freshman class was a very highly-regarded class and they all can play and they’ll all kind of fit their role here soon.”
This weekend was a long time coming for Scupin, who was born and raised in Tucson and committed to the Wildcats as an eighth grader. The towering first baseman attended games at Hillenbrand Stadium as a kid and is grateful to don the Block A.
Scupin said she has been antsy at the plate so far, but in the second inning she waited back and clobbered a changeup to the opposite field.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I mean, we’ve been practicing all fall and all spring, waiting to finally play somebody else, but it was definitely an amazing experience even though we can’t have the fans here. I’m so happy to put on the uniform and go out with all the seniors and the rest of the team.”
Netz, a SoCal native who attended Oro Valley’s Ironwood Ridge High School as a senior, had similar nerves.
“It’s kind of surreal looking at the Arizona backstop and looking down at my uniform like, ‘OK, I’m actually in this moment,’” she said.
Netz said she took a moment to let in sink in before getting down to business. The fiery right-hander allowed an RBI double in the first inning before throwing three scoreless frames. Sitting in the upper 60s, she had five strikeouts and only allowed three hits.
“My screwball was really helpful as well as my changeup in the beginning, which kind of threw off the hitters,” Netz said. “And my curveball was actually working pretty well. I could get it to spin up and I can get it to spin out.”
Arizona’s Murderer’s Row of Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, Reyna Carranco, Jessie Harper and Dejah Mulipola only accounted for two hits Sunday, but also drew four walks to help set the table for the bottom of the order. They will be pitched carefully all season.
Malia Martinez is OK with that. The super senior belted a two-run homer in the third, her third long ball of the season. An inning later, she drove in another run with an RBI single to shortstop. She already has eight RBI this season, tied with Palacios for second-most on the team behind Mulipola.
The Wildcats posted a 45-5 run differential in five wins in the Hillenbrand Invitational, including four run-rule victories. Their biggest problem right now, if you want to call it that, is figuring which names to etch into the lineup. 14 different players had at least one hit on the weekend.
“I love our depth and our lineups, we have a lot of flexibility,” Candrea said. “I think we can be strong one through nine, and it’s been a while since I can really say that. I think the bottom of this order can, number one, be explosive as you saw today with Carlie hitting the home run. But number two, being able to turn the lineup around and get back to Palomino and that group because no one wants to really pitch to them. So it’s a real blessing that we have.”
Arizona returns to action Thursday at 6 p.m. MST against BYU, the first game of the four-game Wildcat Invitational that will also pit the Wildcats against Seattle, Oregon State and Colorado State.
Every game will air on Arizona Live Stream 2.