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Arizona softball opens the Hillenbrand Invitational with two wins

arizona-softball-mental-health-suicide-lauren-bernett-jmu-james-madison-skaggs-meono-lowe Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Arizona softball head coach Caitlin Lowe wanted to see her team play loose. They lived up to her desire in an 11-1 run-rule victory over UC Santa Barbara in six innings and a 7-2 win over Long Beach State. It gave the Wildcats a 2-0 record in the Hillenbrand Invitational and a 5-1 record overall.

“I felt it way more,” Lowe said. “I told them they took up space in the box. I thought our outs were scary. Way more threatening of an offense today than I thought we had last weekend.”

In the first game, sophomore Devyn Netz took the circle for Arizona. She pitched six innings of 3-hit ball with two strikeouts and one hit batter. She had no walks and improved to 2-0 on the year.

“Devyn looked way better this weekend,” Lowe said.

There were some changes in her supporting lineup with Giulia Koutsoyanopulos playing right field and Izzy Pacho at designated player, but it was starting catcher Sharlize Palacios who hit the cover off the ball for the Wildcats.

Palacios launched her second and third home runs of the season. The first was a grand slam that sounded like it came off the end of the bat but still found its way over the left-field fence into Candrea’s Corner. It put Arizona up 5-1 in the second.

“When you feel it, you feel it,” Palacios said. “And, honestly, I was blowing it a little. But, yeah, I knew it was gone.”

Palacios would come up in another crucial situation in the bottom of the sixth. With Arizona leading 8-1 and runners on second and third, UCSB opted to pitch to her with one out. Palacios took the 2-2 pitch out of the park to end the game by run rule.

Pacho and Carlie Scupin also went yard. Pacho hit her second home run of the season in the bottom of the fifth by launching a solo shot over the batter’s eye in center field. Scupin hit her second of the season in the third inning.

In the second game, Arizona took a 1-0 lead on Scupin’s second home run of the day. It was the second of three home runs hit by the Wildcats’ first base on the day giving her four for the year.

Pacho, who moved to third base for the second game, got another home run in the nightcap.

Allie Skaggs also sent one out of the park, sending one just inside the left-field foul pole that looked like it might reach the tennis courts beyond the park.

Hanah Bowen pitched six innings in the late game, giving up six hits and two earned runs. She had two strikeouts, one walk, and hit three batters. She was relieved by freshman Madi Elish who gave up one hit and struck out two in the seventh.

The Wildcats also made some great plays in the field after being failed by their defense against Alabama last weekend. Especially impressive was centerfielder Janelle Meoño who covered distance both coming in and going to the wall to rob opposing hitters.

“I know that’s always been there,” Lowe said. “They just had to kind of relax and be themselves.”