TEMPE — Arizona softball’s pitching is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.
Alyssa Denham carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning in a 15-1 win over ASU in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader before a bloop single broke it up.
Denham’s dominance came a day after the same Sun Devil lineup tagged her for three runs in 2.2 innings.
It also began 30 minutes after Mariah Lopez and Devyn Netz surrendered four two-run homers in an 8-1 loss to ASU.
“We need some help,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “We need to at least have an idea what we’re going to get, so hopefully moving forward we can shake some things up.”
Candrea said Hanah Bowen will get the nod in Sunday’s series finale. The junior pitched pretty well in relief of Denham on Friday and actually has the best ERA on the team (1.17) despite pitching far fewer innings than Lopez and Denham.
Why not give her a shot?
“We just gotta get better,” Candrea said. “Like I told the kids, we got a choice to make here. We’re not as good as we think we are and we’re not as bad as we think we are. It’s just a matter of going out and playing the damn game with an open mind and being focused and being competitive.”
The Wildcats have struggled against ranked teams this season, now sitting at 2-7 after Saturday’s split.
It’s not all on the pitchers. Their offense scored just four combined runs in the first two games of the series. They tallied 13 hits, sure, but often failed to get the key ones.
It puts pressure on their pitchers. Arizona did not score in the first two games of the series until the third and fourth innings, respectively. In game 3, they plated two runs in the first inning thanks to Jessie Harper’s 86th career homer and, what do you know, Denham was able to settle in.
“It just shows that hitting is contagious,” Denham said. “And when we figure out how to pass the bat, we can make a lot of things happen. Whether it’s walks, hit by pitches, home runs, base hits, we kind of put the pressure on them and take it off us and I think it’s really important for us.”
The caveat is Arizona got to pour it on against Cielo Meza, ASU’s No. 3 pitcher who only pitches so they can rest Allison Royalty and Lindsay Lopez.
Can they carry it over to Sunday against ASU’s better arms?
“I feel pretty good about this team’s energy level,” Candrea said. “The thing you got to worry about with them is they’re pleasers. They try too hard sometimes. And I think they need to just simplify things and let the game come to them and they’ll be able to play this game at a high level.”
That’s what Denham attributed her bounceback start to.
“To be honest, I don’t think I did terrible in game one,” she said. “I think that I struggled making adjustments that needed to be made, but I think that my overall pitches were good pitches. They shrunk the zone yesterday and made it hard on me. And I think today the difference was I kind of took it back to basics. I tried to throw as hard as I can. I don’t worry about my spin and movement because I have a lot of that. So sometimes when I overthink that, I get a little bit too much and it doesn’t really move the way I want it to.”