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NCAA Softball: Texas ends Arizona’s Cinderella run at the Women’s College World Series

Arizona coaches and players gather after their final loss of the season.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

OKLAHOMA CITY — They were a magical three weeks for the Arizona Wildcats. After a season of struggle when they finished tied for last place in the Pac-12, they found a way to come together and fight in the postseason. It finally came to an end at the Women’s College World Series as the Wildcats fell to the Texas Longhorns 5-2 on Sunday, June 5.

Fifth-year senior Hanah Bowen, who has been dealing with enough pain to cause her to limp at times, started her final game for the Wildcats and took the loss to end with a 14-12 record. She pitched three innings, giving up four hits and three earned runs. She struck out two and walked one.

Bowen went on an incredible run in the postseason. After compiling a 4.10 ERA in the regular season, she dropped that to a 2.63 over 32 innings in the postseason.

Sophomore Devyn Netz pitched in relief. She allowed two earned runs on two hits. She struck out one and walked no one. Like her teammate, Netz had an incredible run in the postseason, ending the tournament with an ERA of 1.22 after putting up a 3.90 ERA in the regular season.

“For them to not only believe it but put it into action and not care what was behind them, man, so huge,” Lowe said. “When we talked with our pitchers, we always talked about how on ESPN, they show the stat lines — hey, this is where they were, ERA here, and this is what they did in the postseason. And that was a fresh slate. I love that they became those pitchers.”

On offense, the Wildcats were paced by Carlie Scupin. Scupin went 1 for 3 and had both of Arizona’s RBI.

Bowen battled with Texas starter Hailey Dolcini for the first two innings. Bowen allowed just a bunt single and Dolcini kept the bases clear. In the bottom of the third, the Longhorns struck first with a leadoff home run from Courtney Day.

As has been the case for almost the entire postseason, Arizona responded in the next half-inning. A single from Sharlize Palacios, a walk for Allie Skaggs, and another single by Izzy Pacho loaded the bases for Scupin. A single down the right-field line scored two to give the Wildcats the lead.

“I was getting a lot of pitches, and I was seeing her pretty good,” Scupin said. “It felt good to get the lead.”

Arizona still had two on with no outs, but the Wildcats weren’t able to get any more out of the situation. Texas head coach Mike White lifted Dolcini for Estelle Czech. Czech put an end to the threat with two straight strikeouts.

Texas started the bottom of the fourth just like they ended the fifth. Bowen gave up a walk and a single to lead things off, prompting Lowe to bring in Netz. Netz struck out her first batter, but that was followed by the three-run home run from JJ Smith. The Longhorns were back on top.

Texas got another run in the bottom of the fifth off a sacrifice fly by former Wildcat Bella Dayton. Arizona wasn’t able to get anything going offensively in the sixth, but Paige Dimler reminded Wildcat fans that there’s a lot to look forward to in the future.

The freshman outfielder led off the final inning of the season with a single to centerfield. She didn’t move from first base, but she will have another chance in another year.

Dimler and most of this Wildcat team will be back next season. The team loses two five-year seniors with the departures of Bowen and Peanut Martinez. They also lose grad transfer Bailey Thompson. Those players, as well as the ones who left after last season, helped lay a strong foundation for the future for the likes of Dimler, Netz, Palacios, and Scupin.

“I can’t thank the older seniors enough for what they’ve done for me and what they’ve taught me to be here and play at this level,” Netz said.

But learning from others and learning for yourself are different, and the younger Wildcats now have both. Barring transfers, the other 15 players will wear “Arizona” across their chests again next season and try to get back to Oklahoma City for the fourth straight time. They have the kind of experience they can use to take the next step.

“I learned a lot from last year’s team, and I learned a lot about what it feels like to lose,” Netz said. “It doesn’t feel good at all. Sitting here right now, I wish I was the next team going to the semifinals, but you learn a lot doing it yourself. And sitting there and learning and watching is way different than playing.”

Even though she got some experience playing last year, Palacios still had steps to take. She got the chance to do that this season, and will get the chance to do even more next season.

“I just want to say a great thank you to our seniors because they’re continuing to better our program the way all seniors do,” Palacios said. “I’m happy to come back and have more years with the girls that I’m playing with. I’m just excited for us to be able to do the same thing next year.”