Carlie Scupin stepped into the batter’s box in a critical spot in Saturday’s Super Regional win at Arkansas. Bases loaded. Two outs. Arizona only nursing a one-run lead in the sixth inning.
The pressure continued to mount when the count went to 2-2, but the freshman had a plan.
“That whole game they were kind of going to a certain sequence, they were going inside and outside,” Scupin said. “So I had two strikes, so I was kind of expecting something in, so I just told myself that I gotta get my hands through and get that inside pitch.”
So, she did.
Arkansas righty Autumn Storms challenged Scupin with a 67 MPH fastball and Scupin pulled it into right field for a two-run single. After striding into first base, she clapped, smiled and bumped fists with volunteer assistant coach Carlos Armijo. All that work in the batting cage had paid off.
“Something we’ve been working on since the fall is the inside pitch, just because before I got here I didn’t get thrown in inside as much, mostly outside,” Scupin said. “So it was definitely cool to get that hit, especially on an inside pitch.”
Scupin’s bat is a big reason Arizona’s offense is red-hot heading into the Women’s College World Series. Some freshmen hit a wall late in the season; Scupin has caught fire. She has two or more hits in three straight postseason games.
For the season, she is hitting .354 with nine homers, seven doubles and 37 RBI. Her 23 strikeouts are sixth-fewest among Arizona’s regulars.
“I think Carlie has been really consistent,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “As a freshman, she has given us consistent plate appearances, she’s done a good job defensively. She has been just a real tremendous asset. You never know what how freshmen are going to react but I think truthfully, even against good pitching, I think Carlie has really done a good job of having that emotional stability and having a good zone, a good eye, doesn’t chase a lot of stuff, and she’s had some really big key hits for us.”
Scupin has started at first base for all but two games. That hasn’t come as a surprise to those who have followed her career. Some have said she could have started for Arizona as a high schooler. Candrea remembers watching her in one of his camps and thinking one thing.
“Wow. I think that was the word,” he said. “I had her in camp, and that’s really when she grabbed my attention because we had tested her bat speed and I hadn’t seen bat speed like that since Jenny Dalton. And so that excites you, but that’s not the only thing you have to have to be a good hitter. And as I followed her through her career, I noticed that she hit good pitching better than she hit bad pitching, and that was another big plus. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that we wanted her in a Wildcat uniform because she’s big, she’s strong, she’s very athletic for her size.”
“If I think of one word that I would describe her performance this year it’s just been game maturity,” Candrea said.
Scupin made a similar first impression on her Arizona teammates.
“When Carlie first came in here, I was kind of blown away,” said senior shortstop Jessie Harper. “I was, ‘like wow, this girl is so strong, she can hit the ball so far.’ In practice in the beginning of the year she put a few balls on the Gittings Building back there and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness. Where did this girl come from?”
Scupin was born and raised in the Old Pueblo and started attending UA camps when she was six years old. She then starred at nearby Tucson High, where she owns the school’s home run record despite her senior season being cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
Candrea said the Wildcats want to land every talented Tucson kid, but some, he said, “want to get the hell out.”
Not Scupin. She takes pride in representing her hometown.
“Being able to play for this team, play at Arizona, play for Coach Candrea, I think is a dream of every little girl, especially little girls from Tucson,” she said. “Now going to the World Series means so much and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl, so it’s definitely a cool moment.”
Scupin’s freshman season has been one to remember, but her best is yet to come. Candrea wants to tweak her swing this offseason when there’s more time to focus on the finer details. Her home run numbers could spike as a result.
“She’s very dominant with her upper body,” Candrea said. “I would love to see her be able to unwind from the bottom up a little better and use her powerful legs that she has. And when she does that, she can be scary.
“The other thing is she’s finally understood about getting on plane. And in softball or hitting that’s so important—how long can you keep the bat through the zone? Because the longer you can do that, the larger margin of error you have. Carlie gets a little steep and therefore you see kind of a V-swing sometimes where she’s cutting the ball. ... I think that’s going to be something that she can work on in the summer and in the fall, and I think she’s gonna be a dynamite hitter at this level.”