It was a day of battles for Arizona softball. Taking leads, falling behind, and fighting back was the order of the day. It ended with a pair of one-run games against Loyola Marymount and Kentucky.
Arizona took the 4-3 victory over LMU in the first game of the doubleheader. In the nightcap, the Pac-12 Wildcats lost to the SEC Wildcats 7-6.
The first game of the doubleheader was a tight one for Arizona. The offense managed just four hits while the pitching gave up 11 and the defense committed two errors.
“I knew from the moment I scouted LMU from the first game they played at this tournament that they were going to be a hard game and I told the girls that last night,” Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said. “I said, ‘We’re going to be in for a dogfight. They have energy. They come out swinging.’ And I was proud of just us figuring out a way to win. We didn’t see that pitcher well at all, but we just figured out a way to score one more than them and that’s what matters.”
Sharlize Palacios hit her fourth home run of the season and walked twice. She led the team with two RBI, while Allie Skaggs and Blaise Biringer each accounted for one.
The Wildcats used all four of their pitchers, including senior Hanah Bowen who was set to start the late game. Devyn Netz started the first game for the Wildcats. She didn’t have her best stuff, giving up seven hits and three walks in 3.2 innings, but she managed to give up just one run.
Jessie Fontes came in to relieve Netz in the top of the fourth with two on and two outs. Fontes gave up two hits but kept the Lions from adding any runs.
Fontes, in turn, was relieved by freshman Madi Elish in the top of the fifth with two on and two out. She got the final out of the fifth but couldn’t make it through the sixth.
Despite facing another game, Lowe decided to bring in Bowen. Bowen allowed two inherited runners to score, but both were unearned and charged to Elish. At the end of six, the teams were tied.
It didn’t take a hit to get the win. In the bottom of the seventh, Jasmine Perezchica walked. She then moved up two bases on wild pitches. With no outs, Skaggs stepped to the plate and lifted a sacrifice fly to left field. It was enough to get Perezchica across home for the win.
It wasn’t the last time that Skaggs would come up clutch. In the second game, she came to the plate in the bottom of the third inning with two outs and her Wildcats down 1-0 to Kentucky. She knocked two runners in with a sharply hit single to left field. Arizona was up 2-1.
“I honestly just tried to make it seem like it’s not as big as it actually is,” Skaggs said. “I bring myself back to I’ve done this so many times, I’ve been playing for so many years that I’ve been in the situation hundreds of times, so it shouldn’t be anything different now.”
The back-and-forth continued. The next inning, Kentucky’s Miranda Stoddard got the two-run homer off Bowen to put her team back up 3-2. In the bottom of the inning, Arizona’s Peanut Martinez got an RBI and knocked in an unearned run, giving Arizona the 4-3 lead.
The top of the fifth brought more drama. Kentucky tacked on four more runs on a double from Taylor Ebbs and a home run by Kennedy Sullivan. The SEC Wildcats almost got another run, but Stoddard was ruled out on interference, keeping Arizona within three runs in a 7-4 game.
It almost made the difference. After Bowen gave up the home run to Sullivan, Elish entered the game. She threw 2.1 innings of one-hit ball, striking out one and walking none. It gave her team a chance.
Arizona scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull within one run. The Wildcats put the tying runner in scoring position in the sixth but weren’t able to push a run across.
Bowen ended the game with seven earned runs on 11 hits in 4.2 innings. She gave up a double and a home run.
“The night game honestly, if I could take great things away from it, which there were a lot of great things, is that’s the team that we are offensively,” Lowe said. “I thought we made a lot of great defensive plays. I think we can pitch a little bit better. I think they know that. But at the end of the day, we both almost cleared our staffs. And we’re competitive and we had a chance till the very last inning.”
Arizona (6-2) will face Long Beach State (2-6) for the second time this weekend at 2 p.m. MST on Sunday. The Wildcats defeated the Beach 7-2 on Friday evening.