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No. 10 Arizona softball battles back but falls to No. 6 Florida State

Arizona freshman Aissa Silva (3) gave the Wildcats a chance in their 6-4 loss to Florida State at the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational on Feb. 16, 2023.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Defensive and pitching lapses are killers. Arizona softball found out the hard way in a 6-4 loss to Florida State at the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational on Thursday. Despite the miscues, the Wildcats found a way to battle back, but they came up short in their first loss of the season.

Devyn Netz gave up six runs in 3.1 innings against the Seminoles. Only two were scored as earned runs, but the seven hits and two walks given up by Netz were as responsible for the damage as the errors by her defense.

Freshman lefty Aissa Silva was the big story in the circle for the Wildcats. The early enrollee should be pitching in high school this year, but she got thrown into the fire against the sixth-ranked Seminoles with her team trailing 6-0.

Silva pitched 3.1 innings. She gave up no runs on one hit and one walk. She struck out two.

After getting out of the first inning on a 6-4-3 double play, Netz and her defense ran into problems in the top of the second. Errors by third baseman Blaise Biringer and right fielder Paige Dimler allowed three runs to score.

Florida State was having its own issues in the circle early in the game. The Seminoles made the unexpected move of starting former Arizona State pitcher Allison Royalty.

Like Netz, Royalty allowed two to reach base in the first but got out of the inning when her defense turned a double play. FSU already had ace Kathryn Sandercock warming up in the bottom of the inning.

Royalty was lifted with one out in the bottom of the second after giving up a hit and two walks in 1.1 innings. Sandercock came in and had no such problem in the early going. She struck out five of the first seven batters she faced.

The Wildcats finally had some success against the Seminoles’ ace in the bottom of the fourth. After a strikeout by Izzy Pacho, Carlie Scupin came to the plate. Arizona’s first baseman continued her strong start to the season by launching a 2-2 pitch over the centerfield fence for her third home run and 15th RBI of the season.

With the Wildcats trailing 6-1, freshman Tayler Biehl came to the plate and hit one down the first base line into the corner for a triple. Fellow freshman Olivia DiNardo battled Sandercock, then hit one up the middle to get Biehl in. Two more scored on an error by the Seminoles’ defense, cutting their lead to 6-4.

Silva entered the game with two outs in the fourth to relieve Hardy, who had replaced Netz earlier in the inning. Hardy entered the game after Netz walked her second batter. The senior was only able to retire one of the three batters she faced.

Silva struck out Devyn Flaherty to end the inning. Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe credited the strikeout with jumpstarting the Wildcats on offense in the bottom half of the inning.

Silva followed that up with a fine defensive play to get the first out of the fifth inning. She walked one but gave up no runs for just the second clean inning by an Arizona pitcher.

Arizona threatened in both the fifth and sixth innings, bringing the tying run to the plate in both frames. The Wildcats weren’t able to scratch any more runs across, though.

Arizona (5-1) returns to the field against Texas A&M at 8 a.m. MST on Friday, Feb. 17. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.