Oregon spoiled Hanah Bowen’s perfect game, then handed Arizona a devastating loss. All in a span of three batters.
Terra McGowan’s two-run walk-off homer lifted the 12th-ranked Ducks to a 2-1 win over the 7th-ranked Wildcats in Friday’s series opener, plating Haley Cruse who led off the seventh inning by blooping a single into right field, Oregon’s first baserunner of the night.
It was a quick, cruel twist of events for Bowen, who otherwise showed she is worthy of being Arizona’s ace. Making her first-ever series-opening start against a ranked team, the junior finished with seven strikeouts and generated an abundance of weak contact.
McGowan’s home run, which came on an 0-2 count, was Oregon’s only hard-hit ball. Bowen was changing speeds, working on all four planes and getting ahead of counts, throwing 14 first-pitch strikes.
However, Arizona’s offense, once again, failed to show up against quality pitching. A sixth-inning solo homer by No. 9 hitter Peanut Martinez was one of just two hits they mustered against Oregon ace Brooke Yanez, who had been struggling entering the series yet managed to keep the Wildcats off balance.
Yanez fanned eight batters, even getting steady slappers like Janelle Meoño and Reyna Carranco to swing and miss. Meono went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, snapping her 27-game hitting streak.
The loss is a crushing blow to Arizona’s hopes of earning a top-8 national seed, but it’s not a surprising one. They are now 2-9 against ranked teams, scoring just 27 runs in those 11 contests. 15 of them came in one game when ASU started their No. 3 pitcher. Take that game out and the Wildcats are only averaging 1.2 runs against top-25 teams.
It’s hard to fathom how a lineup with this much talent, this much firepower, keeps falling short on the big stage.
Arizona (33-14, 11-6) and Oregon (32-13, 10-9) are back it at Saturday for a doubleheader that begins at 2 p.m. PT. The second game is a non-conference game.
As heartbreaking as Friday’s loss was, Arizona still has seven more games against ranked teams to round out the regular season, giving them time—albeit not much—to right the ship and put themselves in a position to earn a top-8 seed.
Had Bowen been able to complete the perfect game...
It would have been the 10th perfect game in Arizona softball history and first seven-inning perfect game since Alicia Hollowell threw one in 2005.