If the pitching was working, the hitting wasn’t. If the hitting was working, the pitching wasn’t. That’s been the experience of Arizona softball for the first two weeks of Pac-12 play. In fact, it’s been the modus operandi for the Wildcats against good teams all season.
It continued as Arizona lost a 7-5 heartbreaker to Washington courtesy of a grand slam by Husky senior Baylee Klingler in the top of the seventh inning.
Before the series, Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said that they needed to build on the little things. To break through, they needed to take baby steps and focus on what was going right.
“I think building them up and having themselves be able to feel a role that’s not necessarily a hit, that’s not necessarily a strikeout—like that pitch felt good and that swing felt good and even if the outcome wasn’t there,” Lowe said on Tuesday. “Like that rolls you into a different feeling, and I think hyping them up in those moments and teaching them how to build off of that kind of energy, something that was productive in that at-bat.”
That attitude was finally there for the Wildcats, at least early in the game. In the first inning, Allie Skaggs was hit by a pitch, Carlie Scupin walked on four pitches, then Sharlize Palacios battled through a long at-bat to coax a walk from Washington pitcher Kelley Lynch.
Arizona didn’t get any runs out of it, but it was especially important for the struggling Palacios to have some success and get on base. The catcher went 2-for-3 at the plate and scored a run, raising her batting average to .235.
It’s a point of emphasis for all of the team.
“We’re finally scoring runs, and putting together at-bats—and putting together longer at-bats I think is the biggest thing seeing the ball longer,” Skaggs said. “Me personally, trusting myself because I know that if I get deep into a count, I can trust myself to still do well.”
Like the first game of the series, Arizona jumped out to an early lead. Paige Dimler led off the bottom of the second inning with a solo home run to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
Just like Friday night, Washington punched back with a solo home run off the bat of Klingler to tie the game. And another home run, this one from Skaggs, gave Arizona the lead again.
The Wildcats tacked three more runs on their lead, going ahead 5-2 in the fourth inning. Meanwhile, freshman Madi Elish was battling in the circle.
Elish pitched four innings, giving up four hits and just two runs while striking out three. The second run was a home run from Washington right-fielder Angie Yellen in the top of the fifth. Lowe felt it was time to make the change and brought in senior Hanah Bowen.
“I look at it from an hitter’s perspective,” Lowe said. “Like when you see them getting comfortable with anything or making the adjustment, it’s time to make a move. And I think our pitchers buying into the fact that they’re different for a reason is really important because when they can work together as a unit of four and realize, okay, she just slowed them down. I’m going to speed them up. What do I have that Madi doesn’t have? And all those things they’re playing the game instead of feeling kind of the weight on their own shoulders.”
Bowen struck out the first two she faced and got the fly-ball out from Klingler in the fifth. In the sixth, it was another 1-2-3 inning for Bowen. She was pumping her fist and looking more comfortable than she had in weeks.
Washington showed why it came into the season as one of the favorites in the Pac-12, though. Down to their final three outs, the Huskies used two singles and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases. Bowen walked in a run to cut the lead to two with the bases still loaded.
Klingler took care of that. The Pac-12’s home-run leader launched her 16th home run of the season to give her team the 7-5 lead.
It was the final of the five runs given up by Bowen. She allowed three hits and a walk in three innings.
Arizona is still looking to put it all together in the same game.
“We show up like we’re gonna win the game,” Lowe said. “I still feel like we can compete as a full unit, and I think that’s what we’re missing is that cohesion with the pitching staff to the defense to the hitting. I think it’s coming. But it’s gonna take everyone playing a complete game together for us to be successful.”