Arizona went into its last homestand of the regular season looking to secure a postseason berth. The Wildcats looked like a team that belongs, combining some stunning defense and their usually powerful offense to defeat Stanford 10-6.
“We got a lot of dog in us,” said sophomore shortstop Sophia Carroll. “Arizona softball, you want to keep that tradition and pass that torch and work our butts off this weekend.”
Sharlize Palacios and Carroll both hit two-run home runs against Alana Vawter, the Pac-12 leader in wins with 21. It was the 22nd straight game reaching base safely for Palacios. The offensive avalanche caused Stanford to pull their right-hander after just 2.1 innings in which she gave up five hits and seven earned runs.
“I think it really set the tone for the game,” Palacios said. “It showed that we were really being aggressive.”
Changing pitchers didn’t help much. Allie Skaggs hit her 22nd home run of the year off reliever Molly Millar. Skaggs ended the game tied for first in the Pac-12 for home runs, but Washington’s Baylee Klingler, who went in leading with 22, was still playing.
It was a strong response from Skaggs, who was left off the All-Pac-12 First Team that was announced on Wednesday.
“Our girls don’t care about the postseason awards,” Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said. “I think I get a little bit more upset. You know when someone puts up numbers like that, it’s kind of crazy. But there’s a lot of good people in our conference, too, so you really can’t be mad at the names on that list.”
Carroll didn’t care about the change of pitcher, either. She got a two-run double to raise her RBI total on the day to four. The sophomore shortstop reached base all three times she went to the plate, drawing a walk in the fifth inning.
“Me and Cait had a long talk yesterday about an approach for this weekend and going into the postseason, and what I wanted to adjust to help as much as I could,” Carroll said.
Chief among those adjustments were patience and her center of gravity. The coach was pleased with the results.
“I just don’t think she knows how strong she is and how good of a hitter she is, and she doesn’t give herself enough credit,” Lowe said.
Arizona used three pitchers to keep the Cardinal off-balance. Stanford got 13 hits, but Hanah Bowen, Madi Elish, and Jessie Fontes were able to limit the Cardinal to six runs.
“I think it’s nice to go from Bow to Madi and then to bring in Jessie or Devyn (Netz), really, so just kind of playing with that,” Lowe said. “I know Sunday we did that at Cal and kept hitters a little bit more off balance.”
Bowen ended her night with a line of four hits, one run, one strikeout, and one walk in three innings, but did not figure in the decision.
Elish got the win to improve to 8-3 on the season. Her line was eight hits, five runs (three earned), two walks, and one strikeout. Fontes gave up one hit and no runs in one inning.
Bowen started by sitting the side down in order but ran into trouble in the second inning. She allowed one run but was helped out of a bases-loaded jam in the inning by fancy defense from Izzy Pacho at third base to end the inning.
“I would give the player of the game to Izzy Pacho for that play,” Lowe said. “She made a few plays like that tonight.”
It was the first of two strong plays by Pacho to get her pitchers out of trouble. She repeated the favor for Elish to end the top of the fourth.
Elish ran into problems again in the top of the seventh. After loading the bases with no outs, she gave way to Fontes. Fontes allowed two inherited runners to score, but both runs were unearned and charged to Elish.
The Wildcats and Cardinal face off again on Friday at 5 p.m. MST/PDT.