TEMPE - Last season, Arizona softball finished tied for last in the Pac-12 standings. The Wildcats started Pac-12 play with eight straight losses and didn’t win a conference series until April 16 when they took game three against Oregon. What a difference a year makes.
On Saturday, UA secured its first series win by taking game two at Arizona State in dominant fashion. It was the second no-doubter for the Wildcats against the Sun Devils in as many days. It was especially sweet after ASU swept Arizona last season with two run-rule victories and a no-hitter.
“It feels awesome to jump on ahead, unlike last year,” said junior first baseman Carlie Scupin. “But, honestly, out of this team, it’s what we expect. That’s the expectation, so we’re super happy to start off like this and we just want to keep it rolling.”
There was almost a no-hitter thrown on Saturday, but it wasn’t by former Wildcat and current Sun Devil Marissa Schuld. Schuld was chased by her former team in the second inning while Arizona freshman Aissa Silva took a no-hitter all the way to two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning in an 11-0 UA victory in six innings.
“She’s young, but she wants the moment,” Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said about Silva. “It's like she’s just naive enough. She just goes out and plays softball and competes, and I think that’s the best part. She doesn’t make it too big. It’s the game she’s been playing her whole life, so I think that works in her favor and she just went right at people today.”
Silva got the second win of her career by throwing a two-hitter. She walked three, hit Yanni Acuña twice, and struck out two.
Arizona hitters, on the other hand, were not fooled by any of the three pitchers ASU used. Home runs by Scupin and Allie Skaggs, along with a Little League inside-the-park job by Dakota Kennedy helped the Wildcats power to a second dominant win over their rivals in as many nights.
The Wildcat hitters jumped on Schuld in the first inning. The Sun Devil pitcher thought she got Jasmine Perezchica out on the 6-3 grounder to start the game, but Arizona challenged the call. The Wildcats’ dugout was right. The call was overturned. Two batters later, Scupin sent a towering shot over the centerfield fence for the 2-0 lead.
@carliescupin sends a two-run moonshot to center for the early lead!— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) March 12, 2023
T1 | Arizona 2, Arizona State 0 pic.twitter.com/lQAE2bPU1q
“I was just looking to take a hard swing,” Scupin said. “I felt like my at-bats yesterday were a little bit timid on the good pitches I was getting and over aggressive on the bad pitches I was getting, so I was just looking for something there and I got it.”
Silva showed some jitters in the first inning, missing several balls high and hitting the leadoff batter. Pitching coach Taryne Mowatt came out to talk to her during the second at-bat of the bottom of the first inning. Silva’s defense picked her up with a nice double play as shortstop Sophia Carroll took it to second herself before throwing it on to Scupin at first.
“I think I’ve been most impressed with the pitching this week,” Lowe said. “I know we’ve hit the ball a little bit, but for them to throw zeros up against a really good offense, it’s a big deal. I’ve seen them get into some tough moments and really rise to the occasion, so I’m just really excited for them to finish the job tomorrow.”
Just like Friday evening, Arizona didn’t stop the scoring after the first inning. Carroll followed up her fine defensive play with a long single down the left field line. Kennedy gave the Wildcats two in scoring position with a double, which Perezchica followed with her own double to score both of them.
The Perezchica double chased Schuld, but ASU reliever Kenzie Brown wasn’t able to stop the bleeding. Scupin got her third RBI in two innings with a single to score Perezchica.
Brown settled down in the third, finally putting a zero up for ASU. Arizona wasn’t done scoring, though.
Kennedy led off the fourth, putting down a perfect bunt that would have gone for a single. ASU’s shaky defense came into play for the second day in a row when Brown airmailed the ball over the first baseman’s head. When Sun Devil right fielder Jazmine Hill couldn’t cleanly back the play up, Kennedy took off as third base coach Lauren Lappin waived her around to score off the bunt.
“I put it down and I was like, oh, I think that’s decent, let me run really fast and get to first,” Kennedy said. “And then I saw it get by and I kinda looked behind me when I was running and saw the right fielder miss it, too. And I was like, oh, I’m going all the way! Let’s go! I was just moving, and it worked out...It was so fun.”
Kennedy said that once it got by Hill, she knew she was going to third, but she picked up Lappin as she reached second.
“I saw her hand moving, like flying in a circle,” Kennedy said. “I was like, I guess I’m going all the way.”
Makenna Harper finally broke up the no-hitter with a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, but Silva regrouped to get the final out of the inning.
Arizona used a big sixth inning to put themselves in run-rule territory. A leadoff walk by Kennedy got things started. Perezchica walked and Scupin was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Olivia DiNardo.
DiNardo got the RBIs started by singling in Kennedy, keeping things loaded for Skaggs. Skaggs sent the ball the opposite way over the fence for the grand slam to give Arizona the 11-0 lead.
SKAGGS SLAM @allieskaggs9 crushes her third grand slam of the season for the 11-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/KrEkws96nB— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) March 12, 2023
“My last at-bat, she had gotten me with a couple of pitches that I wish I would have swung at,” Skaggs said. “I almost rung myself up. I thought I struck out, but I didn’t. I was looking for anything hard over the plate. So, I’m feeling pretty confident in my swing and my timing right now. So, anything hard that she left middle, middle high, I was looking for it. So that pitch was middle away. I just stuck my bat out and it went out.”
The Sun Devils put together a rally in the bottom of the sixth as they tried to extend the game to a full seven innings. Silva was taken out after loading the bases with one out.
Brianna Hardy came in to get the final outs. Two strikeouts later, and it was over.
“I just love her demeanor, honestly,” Lowe said. “To come in—and yeah, it is pressure. I mean, it’s the bases loaded, big hitters are up, and she’s able to throw two Ks up there at the end of the game. It’s huge for us to seal that and not let them score in those moments too.”
Arizona secured its first Pac-12 series victory in its first try. Sunday the Wildcats go for the series sweep.
“It’s amazing,” Skaggs said. “I think it credits this new team. I think that’s the biggest thing. From day one, we’re gonna compete and that’s what you’re gonna see every single time, every single pitch, you’re gonna see us compete. We’re not the same team we were last year, and we pride ourselves on that. We just want to win. That’s what our unit is. Eighteen people want to win so bad and that’s what we were seeing out there.”