It was a somber day at Hillenbrand Stadium as the world of college softball honored the late Lauren Bernett of James Madison softball. Like most of the teams around the country, Arizona held a moment of silence before its game against Fresno State and painted Bernett’s number behind home plate.
When the games started, the story was Arizona’s fifth-year senior Hanah Bowen. The right-handed pitcher set a career high with eleven strikeouts in game two as the Wildcats completed the two-game sweep by scores of 8-4 and 5-1. The mark bettered her previous record of nine strikeouts that was set on March 12, 2022 against UNLV.
“My back door and my curve, both sides of the plate,” Bowen said. “It was working really well and I was just keeping them off-stride.”
In the opening game, the Wildcats continued the hot hitting they have enjoyed for the past three weeks. Arizona hitters had a total of five home runs in the doubleheader. In the opening game, they got back-to-back two-out homers from Carlie Scupin and Paige Dimler in the fourth to put Arizona up 8-1.
Sharlize Palacios had a strong day at the plate all day. She went 3-for-3, scored two runs, and had one RBI in the opening game. In the second, she was part of the strong opening inning that would be the difference in the game.
“I think I was just trying to see the ball and hit it on the ground,” Palacios said about the first game. “And I think all my hits were on the ground in the first game, so I was able to just put some through and get runs across.”
Palacios hit one out of the park in the second game to put Arizona up 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning. It was the 15th home run of the season for Palacios, making her one of three Wildcats with at least that many this season.
Two batters later, back-to-back home runs made their debut in the second game, as well. Izzy Pacho started it off with a solo shot. Paige Dimler immediately followed Pacho with her own solo home run, giving Arizona the 4-0 lead at the end of one. Dimler’s homer pushed her to 10 on the year, making her one of four Wildcats with double-digit round-trippers.
After that, the bats went quiet. Fresno State pitcher Cassidy West sat down six straight. After giving up four hits in the opening inning, she gave up just four more in the following five.
“They have it,” head coach Caitlin Lowe said. “You saw it in the first inning. It’s just not giving at-bats away. I think we got less aggressive for some reason in the middle of the game, whereas normally it’s the opposite....I just think you got to get hungry in this moment. It’s 4-0. We need four more to put a team away, and that’s just the mentality.”
Things started to get tough for Bowen in the fifth inning when she allowed a lead-off home run to the Bulldogs’ Abby Doughty. Bowen also gave up a walk and a single, both with two outs, but was able to keep the damage to a single run.
It looked like the Arizona pitcher was going to run into an issue that has plagued the staff all year. After going through the batting order twice, the opposing offense was going to get her on the third time through.
In the sixth, Bowen started with a leadoff walk. She got the next two outs but gave up a single to Doughty. Another single loaded the bases. Bowen’s defense helped her get out of the jam when a high pop-up by Fresno State’s Taryn Irigoyen was run down by left fielder Jasmine Perezchica for the third out.
“(Bowen) was competing,” Palacios said. “I mean, even though she walked someone she wanted to come right back at them, and I think that’s the most important part of it is that she was coming back and wanting to compete again. Next batter, next batter.”
Bowen rebounded strongly in the top of the seventh, getting her record-tying 9th strikeout before pushing the record to 10 and, finally, 11.
Arizona returns to Pac-12 play on May 6 when the Wildcats travel to Berkeley to take on California.