Arizona softball has played a lot of small ball early in the season. In Fayetteville, Ark. the big bats have resurfaced.
Arizona had three home runs, including a grand slam by Izzy Pacho, in its season opener. After that, the Wildcats hit just two home runs over the next seven games. Both were off the bat of Carlie Scupin in back-to-back games against North Carolina State. In four games this week, the No. 13 Wildcats have hit five home runs on its way to a 2-2 record.
It was a long day for Arizona. The Wildcats got an early start at 10 a.m. MST against Drake. They flirted with a run rule victory but ended up winning 9-3 in seven innings. Then, came the wait.
Arizona and Arkansas were scheduled to play their third game in two days at 3 p.m. MST. The game didn’t start until almost 5 p.m. as delays and extra innings kept the Wildcats from taking the field. The Razorbacks battled Drake for 11 innings before winning 4-3.
It was a much more competitive game than the early one between the Wildcats and the Bulldogs.
Arizona freshman Sydney Somerndike got the start in the circle against Drake. In just the second start of her college career, Somerndike sat the Bulldogs down in order to start the first inning. Her offense gave her some support with a hot start of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
A walk by Drake pitcher Mackenzie Hupke and an error by her defense put two on with no outs for the Wildcats. Hupke looked like she was settling down when she struck out Allie Skaggs to get the first out of the inning, but it didn’t last.
Netz, who was the starting designated player in this outing, launched one out to left centerfield, putting Arizona ahead 3-0. Scupin came up next and drew the walk. Olivia DiNardo hit the second homer of the inning to give the Wildcats the 5-0 lead in the opening frame.
Drake right fielder Emily Valtman got one run back in the top of the second when she hit a one-out solo shot. Her team couldn’t keep it close, though.
The Wildcats immediately responded with a four-run third inning. Arizona did its damage on three hits and an error by Drake. With a 9-1 lead and only six outs to get for the run-rule victory, it looked like Wildcats were in a good position.
Although she had only thrown 36 pitches and given up one hit in two innings, Somerndike was replaced by Ali Blanchard at the beginning of the third inning. Despite leaving with the lead, it meant the freshman would not figure into the decision. Somerndike finished with a line of one hit, one earned run and two strikeouts in her two innings of work.
Blanchard worked around three hits and a walk in the third and fourth innings to maintain Arizona’s chance at winning the game five innings. It wasn’t quite enough. The Bulldogs finally broke through in the fifth.
Blanchard issued a two-out walk to Aubree Beitzinger. That was immediately followed by a two-out home run off the bat of Sami Miller. The two runs cut the lead to six, taking the run rule off the table unless Arizona could get those runs back.
It was the Bulldogs’ final offensive push, but the Wildcats couldn’t get its offense going again, either. When the game finally wrapped up, Arizona began the long wait for its second game of the day.
With the Razorbacks looking at least a little vulnerable in the early game against Drake and knowing that they had already beaten them once, the Wildcats had to be encouraged by the early signs.
Scupin gave Arizona an early lead with a solo home run off Callie Turner in the top of the second inning. The Wildcats had scored first in seven of their nine wins this season. They had only come back from a deficit twice.
The 1-0 lead was in no way secure, but Netz had been strong in both the circle and the batter’s box all week. It was a promising development.
She didn’t start out quite as strong in this one, giving up a one-out single, but Netz didn’t allow any damage in the first inning.
When the second inning rolled around, Netz couldn’t maintain the lead Scupin had just provided. The pitcher got two quick outs, but the Razorback didn’t go away. A walk followed by a single got the rally going.
Atalyia Rijo was the heroine for Arkansas. The shortstop went 2 for 2 on the day and her first hit—a single up the middle—was the biggest.
Arizona centerfielder Kaiah Altmeyer tried to maintain her team’s lead by throwing the ball home to get Raigan Kramer out. It wasn’t in time to get the runner, but catcher Izzy Pacho gunned down Rijo as she tried to reach second on the throw home.
It was still a tied game, and it was still early, but the ensuing innings didn’t get better. The Arkansas pitchers held the Wildcats to four hits, two of them by Scupin. Scupin also walked once, and Dakota Kennedy drew a walk.
Netz matched the Razorbacks’ pitchers. She kept Arkansas off the basepaths until the bottom of the sixth. A one-out home run off the bat of Rylin Hedgecock was the difference.
Arizona brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the top of the seventh. After a strikeout by Pacho, Sophia Carroll came to the plate. The shortstop had two long fly balls earlier in the game. They were threatening, but both turned into long outs.
With her team’s back against the wall, Carroll put this one on the ground. She poked a ground ball through the 5-6 hole for a single.
Logan Cole came in to run for Carroll. Cole stole second base when the catcher dropped a third strike to Blaise Biringer. With two outs, Arizona had a runner in scoring position.
Cole then stole third base after another bobble by the catcher. She was left 60 feet away when Kennedy struck out to end the game. It was the last of Arizona’s six strikeouts. Cole was the last of seven runners left on base.
The Wildcats play their final game in Fayetteville at 9:30 a.m. MST on Saturday, Feb. 24. The game was originally scheduled for 8 a.m. MST. Arizona will face Drake for the second time this week. It will not be aired, but live stats are available.