In-game adjustments were going to be key to success against Washington. That’s what Arizona softball head coach Caitlin Lowe said before the Wildcats left for Seattle. The team made enough of those adjustments to be competitive. They just didn’t make enough to win.
Arizona lost both games in a doubleheader against Washington on Saturday afternoon. In the first game, the Huskies defeated the Wildcats 3-1. UW returned to the field to win 4-3 on a walk-off home run in the late game.
March softball in Seattle means a good possibility of rain. Arizona knew that was in the forecast before they headed north to play Washington. The forecast was accurate. Rain on Friday evening forced the Wildcats and Huskies to head inside just before 6 p.m. MST.
️ ️— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) March 25, 2023
team hacky sack or volleyball? pic.twitter.com/oeUBATlxdk
The two teams took the field again at 2 p.m. MST on Saturday, restarting the first game in the bottom of the third inning.
Both Arizona’s Devyn Netz and Washington’s Ruby Meylan were very successful on Friday evening. Netz and her defense immediately ran into trouble when the game re-started on Saturday afternoon.
Three singles loaded the bases for the Huskies’ Olivia Johnson with two outs. Netz got her swinging for her fourth strikeout of the game.
The Wildcats got their own bases-loaded situation in the top of the fifth when Izzy Pacho drew a one-out walk, Sophia Carroll was hit by a pitch, and Paige Dimler reached on an error by the Meylan. With two outs to work with, it was a prime opportunity.
Arizona failed to capitalize on that opportunity. A fielder's choice by Jasmine Perezchica resulted in pinch runner Logan Cole being thrown out at home, then Blaise Biringer became the eighth of Meylan’s 10 strikeout victims to end the threat.
The Huskies finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, right fielder Madison Huskey doubled in center fielder Brooklyn Carter from second base. UW’s third outfielder, Sami Reynolds, followed that with an RBI double of her own to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
Arizona struck back in the next inning. Allie Skaggs got things started with a single. She was moved all the way to third by consecutive groundouts by Netz and Olivia DiNardo.
Dakota Kennedy drew a walk with the fourth ball being wild enough to score Skaggs from third. When Johnson tried to toss the ball back to Meylan at the plate, it allowed Kennedy to move up to second. The Wildcats stalled there as Pacho struck out with the runner in scoring position, but it was a one-run game.
Netz and her defense couldn’t keep it there. She faced two batters in the bottom of the sixth. Kinsey Fiedler started it off with a single then stole second base. The steal was important, putting Feidler in scoring position for SilentRain Espinoza to knock her in with an RBI double.
Sydney Somerndike relieved Netz with no outs in the sixth. The freshman sat down three straight batters to get the Wildcats back into the dugout, but Arizona went down in order to end the game.
Netz allowed three earned runs on eight hits and one walk. She struck out six.
Skaggs got the only hit and the only RBI off Meylan. She also drew two of the four walks given up by Meylan.
Skaggs was not retired by any of the three pitchers used by the Huskies in the doubleheader. She had five walks and a single off Meylan, Lindsay Lopez and Kelley Lynch.
Skaggs’ five walks put her at 27 for the season in just 31 games. That is three shy of the total number she drew last season in 61 games and almost halfway to the Arizona record of 64 walks drawn by Jenny Dalton Hill in 67 games in 1996.
Skaggs needs just 18 more walks to move past Leah Braatz, Lovieanne Jung, Hallie Wilson and Kellie Fox for the eighth most walks in a season in program history. The quartet of greats is tied at 44.
Skaggs’ OPS of 1.319 is currently 60 points higher than the 1.259 she had last season when she hit 24 home runs. She made that jump despite her slugging percentage dropping 19 points to .778.
Skaggs and her team had more luck against Lopez and Lynch in the second game than they did against Meylan in the first. That’s to be expected. Meylan averages double-digit strikeouts. She had exactly 10 in the game that stretched from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon.
Meylan came into the weekend sporting a 1.30 ERA. She lowered that to 1.27 with her outing against Arizona. Meanwhile, Lopez came in with a 5.30 and ended with a 5.44. Lynch had given up 2.50 earned runs per seven innings this season and ended the night at 2.28 for the season.
The Wildcats had seven hits to go with six walks in the nightcap. Netz and DiNardo both had multi-hit games with the junior RHP going 2 for 4 and the freshman designated player going 2 for 3.
Netz and DiNardo also accounted for two of Arizona’s three RBIs. The third came courtesy of freshman outfielder Kennedy.
About 30 minutes after the first game, the Wildcats returned to the field and got off to a quick start. Perezchica got things started with a single. She was moved into scoring position when Skaggs drew the one-out walk.
Netz singled up the middle to score Perezchica, but the Wildcats got greedy. Skaggs tried to go first-to-third on the single and was thrown out at third. Instead of two on with one out for DiNardo, Arizona was back to just a runner at first and two outs.
It made a difference. DiNardo singled, a hit that likely would have scored Skaggs from second. Instead, it moved Netz to third for runners on the corners with two outs. The Wildcats failed to get any more runs.
Freshman pitcher Aissa Silva started the second game. She got two quick outs via fly balls to her outfielders.
The third batter was Reynolds. She put it where the outfielders couldn’t get it by launching a solo shot out of Husky Softball Stadium.
The young lefty pitcher regrouped quickly with a strikeout of Fiedler to end the opening frame.
Silva started the second inning just like the first with two quick outs. Then came a two-out single followed by a two-out bomb to give the Huskies a lead again.
That ended the freshman’s day with three earned runs on three hits in 1.2 innings. She got the no decision but it raised her ERA to 2.91.
Ali Blanchard pitched 4.1 innings of one-run relief, but it started out looking like the pitching change was going to be a disastrous decision by Lowe. Instead, Blanchard took the circle on her birthday and made her coach look smart.
Blanchard entered the game after a home run had cleared the bases with two outs. She promptly put two more Huskies back on.
A single and a walk threatened to put Arizona in a bigger hole, but Blanchard coaxed the fly to center field to end the inning without more damage.
The momentum seemed to be on the Wildcats’ side and they played like it. It was time for them to have a two-out rally.
Once again, Skaggs took a walk to give the ‘Cats a two-outs baserunner. Netz added another with a single, and DiNardo followed that with an RBI single to make it a one-run game.
Arizona wasn’t satisfied with a one-run deficit. Kennedy tied it and gave the team two runners in scoring position with an RBI double. The Wildcats couldn’t extend the rally, but the 3-3 tie was encouraging.
It was even more encouraging when Blanchard preserved the lead in the bottom of the inning, albeit with a great deal of effort.
The birthday girl gave up a single to lead-off hitter Reynolds.
In a scary play, Blanchard hit the next batter—second baseman Fiedler—with a pitch in the face. The Husky player stayed down with blood oozing through her fingers for an extended period of time. The blood continued to flow as she walked off the field and was replaced by Megan Vandegrift.
Reynolds and Vandegrift were joined by freshman Sydney Stewart to load the bases. There were still no outs.
Blanchard buckled down. Three straight pop-ups to Sophia Carroll at shortstop and the inning was over. The game was still tied.
The Wildcats got their own lead-off hitter on in both the fourth and fifth innings, but they didn’t move her either time.
The seventh didn’t look promising from the start. A strikeout and a fly ball to center field put the first two outs on the board, but Skaggs was due up. She did what she’s been doing so superbly in the first half of the season. She walked.
Netz got on by way of a UW error. Arizona was in business with a runner in scoring position. DiNardo loaded the bases when she drew the second walk of the inning.
Kennedy firmly smacked a line drive. Lynch threw her glove up almost in self-defense and snagged the ball. Third out. Rally killed.
Blanchard returned to the circle to try to get the game to extra innings. The first batter was Huskey. She sent the ball out of the park and the Huskies home with two wins and the series.
Blanchard took her first loss of the season to fall to 5-1. She gave up one earned run on five hits, two walks and one hit batter in 4.1 innings. She struck out two.
Arizona (20-11, 3-5) will try to salvage the final game of the series against Washington (24-6, 5-3) on Sunday at 12 p.m. MST. The game will air on Pac-12 Arizona.