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Utah powers through Arizona softball to stay perfect in Pac-12 play

COLLEGE SOFTBALL: MAY 08 Utah at Washington Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Utah was the only team to go undefeated in the opening week of Pac-12 softball. The Utes came into Tucson on a 10-game winning streak. They showed Arizona why on Friday night.

Utah defeated the No. 17 Wildcats 8-3 in Arizona’s home opener in conference play. The Utes were dominant on offense and defense as well as in the circle. Utah pitcher Mariah Lopez gave up just four hits while her offense had 15 hits, four of which left the park.

For Arizona, things were much different. First baseman Carlie Scupin, who leads the Wildcats in home runs and was second in the conference heading into the game, was out. She was hit by a pitch in the second game of a doubleheader against New Mexico State on Wednesday night. Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said that Scupin’s arm is broken. She will have surgery on Tuesday to put in a plate that allows the bone to heal properly and miss 4-6 weeks.

“She came out of it in a really positive way and is just there for the team and talking to everyone through the defensive scenarios,” Lowe said. “And our team responds, and they want to do things for her, too.”

With Scupin out, the Wildcats needed to have a strong night in the circle and the field. They weren’t able to accomplish that, getting just four hits and making errors on the base paths and in the field as their ace ran into problems early.

Arizona pitcher Devyn Netz had difficulty locating her pitches from the beginning. She gave up five runs (three earned) on seven hits, a wild pitch, and two hit batters in 3.1 innings.

“I just thought they were aggressive on pitches in the zone,” Lowe said. “And I think less about Devyn and more about [Utah] just being ready when the game started, and I thought we were a little flat when the game started. So, I think the challenge tomorrow is just to come out ready to go from the first pitch on and throw punches defensively, not just wait for the offense to do it.”

Netz didn’t leave the game. Arizona couldn’t afford to lose her bat. For the first four innings, she was the only one who could get a hit off Lopez.

“[I was] trying to tell myself, if I can’t do it on one side of the ball, I’ll try to contribute in any way on the other side of the ball,” Netz said. “So, knowing that I can pick up my team offensively, that was something that kind of kept my head in the game.”

The Arizona pitcher got a lead-off double in the second inning and followed it up with a two-out solo home run in the fourth. It was the eighth of the year for Netz. Allie Skaggs and Dakota Kennedy joined Netz with home runs in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively.

Breezy Hardy came in to relieve Netz with two on and one out in the top of the fourth. Netz moved to first base, where Tayler Biehl had started. Biehl moved to shortstop in place of Sophia Carroll.

It was the first time Netz had played first base since early in her freshman season. Pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney reminded her of what she’s capable of.

“Coach [Mike] Candrea let me play first in the second game,” Netz said. “And Coach T reminded me of that when Scup came out, and I was like, I don’t know, I haven’t played first at all. I haven’t been taking ground balls since my freshman year. I don’t know how it’s gonna go. She was just like, ‘Devyn, if Coach believes in you, you can do it. You’re fine.’ And I was like, okay. So, I kind of just took the reins and kind of just do what I can do.”

Hardy couldn’t keep the inherited runners from scoring. She then allowed a leadoff home run to Sophie Jacquez in the top of the fifth, just after Netz had finally put Arizona on the board. It was just the second run allowed by Hardy in 8.2 IP this season.

Sydney Somerndike took over after Hardy allowed two straight to reach following the home run. The freshman was able to get the final two outs and get her team back in the dugout, but the offense was still sputtering.

Kennedy drew the walk to lead off the bottom of the inning. Arizona not only couldn’t do anything with the runner, but she was almost immediately wiped off in a double play. Paige Dimler hit a hard liner to third. Kennedy had run almost halfway to second before the ball was caught and was doubled up off first.

Things were compounded in the top of the sixth and seventh innings when Somerndike became the third Arizona pitcher to allow at least one home run. Somerndike gave up two runs—both on solo home runs—and four hits in 2.2 innings. She struck out one.

Arizona moved to 19-8 on the season and 2-2 in Pac-12 play.

The Wildcats and the Utes will face each other again at 2 p.m. MST on Saturday. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. but has been moved back an hour. It will be aired on Pac-12 Arizona and Pac-12 Mountain.