Carlie Scupin is only in her first year with Arizona softball but is already making a name for herself as one of the most powerful hitters the storied program has ever seen.
On Saturday, the freshman became just the sixth player in UA history to land a homer on top of Gittings Gym, a multi-story building located well beyond the right field fence.
The solo shot helped the ninth-ranked Wildcats run-rule Cal 9-0 in five innings in the first game of a two-game series. The finale is set for Sunday at noon.
“It felt pretty nice,” Scupin said. “I was just trying to square it up and it went pretty far.”
The understatement of the century. Scupin pulled an inside pitch, a skill she’s been working on, and it just kept carrying and carrying. She said it was the longest home run she’s ever hit. It was her ninth in a Wildcat uniform.
“Scupin’s home run was a monster,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “I haven’t seen one that long in a long time. I don’t know if it’s landed yet.”
Scupin is the first Wildcat to homer onto Gittings Gym since Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza did it against Oregon in 2019.
The tape-measure shot gave Arizona a 4-0 lead in the fourth and was one of three homers the Wildcats belted against the Bears, who returned to the diamond for the first time since April 11 due to COVID-19 issues within their program.
Dejah Mulipola clubbed a two-run shot in the third and Peanut Martinez completed the run-rule in the fifth inning by crushing a grand slam to deep center. Sharlize Palacios also knocked in a pair of runs with an RBI single and first-inning fielder’s choice.
“At first I didn’t even know it was a walk off,” Martinez laughed. “I knew it was grand slam. I mean, it felt sweet off the bat, it felt like it hit a good part of the bat, and I know rounding third Coach was like, ‘that’s how you do it.’ You know, his little handshake he gives me. That always feels good.”
Hanah Bowen, Arizona’s new No. 1 starter, wasn’t her sharpest but escaped several jams to preserve the shutout. The junior righty allowed six hits, walked two batters and hit two others, putting traffic on the bases all night.
The Bears were pesky at the plate, drawing out long at-bats, fouling off pitch after pitch. Bowen pumped her fist after getting Lauren Espalin to pop out to shortstop with two outs in the fifth, stranding runners on first and second.
It turned out to be Bowen’s final pitch of the night. She threw 115 and stranded eight runners in the complete-game effort.
“She threw some pitches when she really needed it and just kind of hung in there,” Candrea said. “I thought she threw some good pitches to get pop ups and and get out of those innings, but yeah, she’s a competitor. And that’s what I like about her.”
Bowen got some big help from her defense in the fifth when Palomino-Cardoza gunned down a runner at third on a single through the middle.
Cal’s coach argued the call feverishly but to no avail. Arizona only led 4-0 at the time and the Bears would have had two on with one out if the call went in their favor.
“I think our defense is really good, and if I’m a pitcher I feel pretty good that if the ball’s put in play that someone’s gonna take care of it,” Candrea said. “Malia (Martinez) made some good plays and I thought the throw from Palomino, to throw the runner out at third base was huge. It was a bang-bang call and little things like that change the whole tide of the game.”
The Wildcats (32-8, 10-5 Pac-12) have now won 29 straight at Hillenbrand Stadium dating back to last season. On Friday, they were selected as one of 20 potential hosts for the regional and super regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament, meaning a run to the Women’s College World Series could pass through Tucson if they finish as a top-8 team in the country.
They will have to finish the regular season well in order to do that. Cal, No. 8 Oregon and No. 2 UCLA stand in their way. The Bears (16-13, 3-7) are by far the worst team in that group, so this weekend is all about building confidence heading into the big series against the Ducks and Bruins.
“I don’t worry about it,” Candrea said. “I mean, I felt like we would be one of the 20, but from here on out, we just got to take care of business. I’m more worried about what we do on the field and whatever happens is gonna happen. Wherever we play, we’re gonna have to play.”
Meoño just keeps hitting
Redshirt freshman left fielder Janelle Meono extended her hitting streak to 26 games with three more singles on Saturday. The speedy slapper is now hitting .496 on the season, the best mark in the Pac-12.
Meoño almost always puts the ball in play, striking out just one time since the beginning of April. Combine that with her blazing speed and she makes for an ideal leadoff hitter.