It will be almost a completely new lineup this season for Arizona softball. While a few spots in the lineup are easy to pencil in, only fall ball and guesswork provide clues to how the rest of it will shake out. So, how about some guesswork to get ready for Thursday’s opener against Southern Utah?
Defensive depth chart
There will be new starters on every part of the field—new outfielders, new infielders, new members of the battery. In some cases, players will simply be shifting around. In others, this will be their first real chance to start.
Catcher: Sharlize Palacios (starter), Bailey Thompson, Izzy Pacho
This is one of the easiest positions to project. Not only because the presumptive starter has already been a starting catcher for Arizona once before, but also because she was front-and-center in most media events this offseason and is all over the preseason watch lists.
Sharlize Palacios will start behind the plate for the Wildcats. The redshirt sophomore stepped in behind the plate during her true freshman season when Dejah Mulipola was away with Team USA. Last season, Palacios was a mean DP and got 13 starts behind the plate.
As a redshirt freshman, she slugged .715, which was tops among Pac-12 freshmen and fifth among all Pac-12 players. Her slugging percentage, along with her home runs (18) and RBI (57), was second on the team.
Backup duties will fall to Bailey Thompson and Izzy Pacho, two local products. Thompson is a grad transfer who played at Canyon del Oro on the northwest side of Tucson during her high school career. The former starting catcher for Seattle was named NFCA third team All-Pacific Region last year out of the WAC. Now, she brings experience to a very young team.
Pacho is entering her fourth year in an Arizona uniform after spending four years playing for Ironwood Ridge. She will likely get some looks at designated player and as a reserve catcher, but she is also getting practice time at third base.
Pitcher: Hanah Bowen (No. 1 pitcher), Devyn Netz (No. 2 pitcher), Jessie Fontes, Madi Elish
It’s not a surprise that redshirt senior Hanah Bowen will be leading the staff. She came in as a utility player who sometimes pitched. Last year, she finally became almost exclusively a pitcher. She had a few at-bats over the course of the season, but her primary job was to take the circle.
Bowen had a fairly successful year in the circle with 102 innings pitched across 21 appearances and 16 starts. She held batters to a .199 average and struck out 79. The 79 strikeouts make up over half of her career total of 149.
Bowen wrapped up her fourth year in Tucson with a 10-4 record and a 2.06 ERA. It was enough for second team All-Pac-12 honors.
Behind Bowen this season will be true sophomore Devyn Netz. Netz showed that she could get the strikeouts in her limited playing time last season. In just 21.1 innings, she struck out 17. She got only two starts and made 10 total appearances, ending with a 3-0 record.
It will be a big step up for Netz this season. She will be called upon to throw a lot of innings. Last season, the Wildcats had five pitchers, including two fifth-year seniors who pitched a lot of frames. With those pitchers gone, she will need to take a big jump.
Last season, three pitchers threw most of Arizona’s innings. It would not be a surprise if the Wildcats fall back to predominantly using just two this season, but they will still need to fill some innings. Those will be spread between freshman Madi Elish and sophomore Jessie Fontes.
Fontes got almost no game experience last season, appearing in just two innings all season, so she and Elish are starting from almost the same place as far as experience goes. Having at least one of them emerge as a reliable third starter could make an enormous difference in how Arizona performs this season.
First Base: Carlie Scupin (starter), Giulia Koutsoyanopulos, Paige Dimler
Carlie Scupin will be a regular on both offense and defense, but Giulia Koutsoyanopulos could see regular time as a late-inning defensive replacement if things proceed as they did last season. The two sophomores were an effective tandem during their first season with the Wildcats.
Scupin had nine home runs last season, which was second among Pac-12 freshmen. The only player who bested her was teammate Palacios. Palacios had a bit of an advantage given that she had played part of her initial freshman season before the pandemic shut down 2020 prematurely. Scupin did not have that early experience.
Her performance was good enough for Scupin to be voted third team NFCA All-West Region and Pac-12 All-Freshman.
Koutsoyanopulos may play a number of positions—she saw some limited time in the outfield during fall ball—but first base will likely be her main role. Her speed will get her on the field as a pinch runner from time to time, as well. She was 5-for-5 in stolen bases last season, placing her second on the team in total stolen bases. That could be especially important if head coach Caitlin Lowe uses an offensive philosophy that stresses speed as much as power.
Paige Dimler has the ability to play both in the outfield and at first base. While she’s likely to be an outfielder for Arizona because of the presence of Scupin, the freshman can come in and handle infield duties if required.
Second base: Allie Skaggs (starter), Amber Toven, Blaise Biringer
Allie Skaggs has already taken the field as the starter at second base for Arizona. Last season, she took over for Reyna Carranco during Carranco’s injury. Skaggs didn’t shy from the occasion.
In 30 appearances and 17 starts, Skaggs had five home runs and 11 RBI. She will want to improve on her .255 average, but there’s plenty of room to grow for the sophomore.
Freshman Amber Toven comes in as a shortstop and she could end up at that position. However, with sophomore Sophia Carroll also vying for that spot, Toven may shift over to the other middle infield spot. She had a strong reputation as a defensive infielder in her prep career, so whether she starts and where will likely depend on how she and her teammates do in the batters box.
Third base: Blaise Biringer (starter), Peanut Martinez, Izzy Pacho
There is plenty of competition for the hot corner, but the likely starter there will be sophomore transfer Blaise Biringer. Biringer wasn’t able to play during fall ball because of NCAA transfer rules, but that’s now a thing of the past. While she played at second base during her one season at Ole Miss, that position would seem to be covered by Skaggs.
Biringer was a member of the SEC All-Freshman team last year. She appeared in all 58 games for the Rebels and started in 55 of them. While she didn’t have a lot of home run power, she did rack up extra-base hits with six doubles and five triples. She had just two home runs on the year and one of them was of the inside-the-park variety, but Arizona has plenty of home run hitters. Biringer’s speed, along with that of several other Wildcats, could harken back to the days of more small ball.
With Biringer unable to play in the fall, redshirt senior Peanut Martinez covered third during the practice tournament. Pacho has also been seeing time over there during spring practice.
Starters: Janelle Meoño (CF), Jasmine Perezchica (LF), Peanut Martinez (RF)
Depth: Paige Dimler, Allie Enright, Guilia Koutsoyanopulos
Janelle Meoño has been the heir apparent as the captain of the outfield since she arrived. Now that Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza is gone, it’s Meoño’s time.
The speedster was last year’s Pac-12 Batting Champion and Freshman of the Year. She was also first-team NFCA All-West Region. This offseason, she tried out with Team USA. She’s as sure a sure thing as there is on this team.
During fall ball, sophomore Jasmine Perezchica took most of the innings in left field. That would appear to be the plan going forward.
With such a young team, redshirt senior Martinez will be relied upon to help lead. She has started in 97 games in her career. Last year, most of those starts came in right field.
She was almost exactly on her career numbers last season with a .263 batting average, .291 on-base percentage, .424 slugging percentage, and .715 on-base plus slugging.
Freshmen Paige Dimler and Allie Enright both played outfield during the fall season. Dimler appears to have the inside track on getting on the field as a freshman, but both of them could see time. Koutsoyanopulos also saw limited action in right field during fall ball. She could be used in a pinch, but will likely find most of her playing time at first base as a defensive replacement.
Southern Utah Thunderbirds @ Arizona Wildcats
Lowe will put in her first lineup card on Thursday, Feb. 10. The Wildcats open up play against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on the newly-named Mike Candrea Field at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium at 6 p.m. MST.
Viewing information: The game will be live-streamed at Arizona Live Stream 2.
In-game stats: In-game stats will be available at Arizona Live Stats.
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