It was Olivia DiNardo’s night. In the absence of fifth-year senior Izzy Pacho, the freshman catcher got two starts behind the plate and launched two home runs in back-to-back wins over Georgetown and San Diego. The Wildcats defeated the Hoyas 15-7 in six innings then returned to the field to nab a 6-0 win over the Toreros.
DiNardo wasn’t the only rookie with a good offensive showing. Freshman utility player Logan Cole got the first hit of her career in the second game, hitting a single up the middle after fouling three pitches off. It was her first at-bat of the night as she stepped in to pinch hit for designated player Ali Ashner.
“A long time coming, for sure,” said the Salpointe High School product.
Cole has been playing more since the injury to first baseman Carlie Scupin, spending much of her time in right field. In the second game of the doubleheader, she stepped into the designated player role in the sixth inning.
“It’s amazing,” Cole said about playing for her hometown university. “I mean, I came here for my three state championships. I played shortstop. So, it’s been super exciting to get some more playing time and even getting an at-bat in the game.”
Cole said that she was initially an outfielder when she was younger because she was so small, so playing some outfield lately hasn’t been a big change for her.
DiNardo said that being the designated player is great, but being able to catch helps her stay more in touch with the game.
“I feel like hitting and playing defense is different because I get to know the umpire’s strike zone,” DiNardo said. “I get to know the environment of the game. When I’m DH, I’m just going up there and trying to do a job. When I’m hitting and catching, I’m in the game. I know what’s going on.”
DiNardo said she also felt like she tracked the ball better when she was catching, which made Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe laugh.
“I think she sees the ball fine both ways,” Lowe said. “She loves being in the game behind the plate. She loves being in the game in any capacity. Just a true competitor.”
Lowe was pleased with the job her freshman did behind the plate. DiNardo noted that she usually caught the two freshmen pitchers, Aissa Silva and Sydney Somerndike, but Lowe specifically mentioned the rapport DiNardo has with junior Devyn Netz.
“She stepped right in, and I thought she kept our pitchers light,” Lowe said. “She has a great relationship with Devyn. I think they give each other a hard time all the time, so it kind of keeps her loose. She did a great job just working for them today for strikes.”
During the week, second baseman Allie Skaggs said that the team was trying to focus on situational plays. Lowe said she saw some of that come to fruition in the game.
“It won’t show up in the stats but Blaise [Biringer] had a stolen base on a ball in the dirt that she never would have gone on before,” Lowe said. “It’s the little things like that that fire me up. And then I thought we were aggressive with runners on base and just hunting pitches that we could handle. Even our outs tonight felt tough... We were making them make tough outs so that felt good. We didn’t give any at-bats away.”
Somerndike got the start in the first game. She had one baserunner in the first inning when she hit Georgetown catcher Mae Forshey, but she got through the inning without much trouble.
Somerndike appeared to have settled down in the second inning when she sat down the first two batters. Then, another hit batter. That was followed by an RBI double and a two-run homer to put the Wildcats in an early 3-0 hole.
Senior Breezy Hardy came in to relieve Somerndike and got the final out.
Arizona picked their pitcher up in their half of the inning, starting with DiNardo. The catcher led off with a single. Biringer got on via the error to give the Wildcats two baserunners with one out.
Tayler Biehl got the scoring started with an RBI double. Sophia Carroll followed that with an RBI single to score Biringer, the Biehl scored a third run for the Wildcats off a passed ball.
A walk gave Arizona two baserunners again still with just one out. Jasmine Perezchica laid down the bunt. She didn’t get the base hit, but it was good enough for the sacrifice and put two runners in scoring position.
They didn’t really need the sacrifice. Skaggs singled to score both Carroll and Ashner. A two-run homer by Netz followed to put Arizona up 7-3 after two innings.
Arizona scored every inning from the second until a second home run by Netz in the sixth inning put the Wildcats up by eight runs and ended the game by the run rule.
Silva pitched the final four innings and got the win for Arizona. She gave up two earned runs on four hits and a walk. She struck out five Hoyas.
Netz started against San Diego in the second game. Her three-hit shutout improved her record to 10-9. She struck out a career-high 11 and lowered her ERA to 2.56.
Although Netz went 0 for 4 at the plate in the second game, she ended the doubleheader 2 for 9 with three RBIs. Both of her hits left the yard.
DiNardo went 3 for 6 and had three RBIs in the doubleheader. Two of her three hits left the yard.
Skaggs hit a home run in each game and Paige Dimler had a solo shot in the first game.
Arizona will face both teams again on Saturday. The opening game against USD starts at 1 p.m. MST. Both games will air on Arizona Live Stream-2.
Pacho will be out for at least the weekend. Lowe said that her catcher is taking some time to focus on some personal concerns.
“She has our full support,” Lowe said. “She’s handling her own stuff right now. We’re here for her and she’ll be back, but just needs some time right now for herself.”