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Pitching woes continue as Arizona softball runs its Pac-12 losing streak to a dozen games

Oregon secures the series win

Arizona pitcher Ali Blanchard (17) at Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Apr. 22, 2023
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Arizona’s futility in Pac-12 play now totals 12 straight conference games. The Wildcats found some offense in the second game of the series after getting shut out and run-ruled in their first game against Oregon. It was the same old story, though. The pitching couldn’t keep the Ducks from big innings in the 8-3 Oregon win.

Arizona used three of its five pitchers against the Ducks on Friday night. On Saturday, Ali Blanchard took the circle for the first time in the series. The junior gave up four earned runs on five hits and four walks. She threw 91 pitches in four innings, only 42 of them going for strikes. She struck out two.

Blanchard gave up a single and two walks in the first inning, but her defense helped her when Kai Luschar got thrown out trying to stretch that single into a double. A strong throw by freshman shortstop Logan Cole and a good tag by junior second baseman Allie Skaggs denied Luschar.

Blanchard fell behind all three batters she faced in the second inning, but she was able to respond and sit the Ducks down in order. She still hadn’t given up any runs.

She once again fell behind and got into a full count against Paige Sinicki to start the third, but as she had in the first two innings, she got the out. Then, the Ducks started making good contact. After two straight singles, Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe had seen enough. She pulled Blanchard with two on and one out.

Devyn Netz entered the game and things immediately went sideways. A third straight single given up by Wildcat pitchers put the first run on the board for Oregon. A double by Terra McGowan pushed two more across for the 3-0 lead.

Netz got the second out, but she followed it by walking KK Humphreys. Humphreys stole second. Ariel Carlson took advantage of the runner in scoring position with a two-out RBI single. It gave Oregon the 4-0 lead and ended the inning for Netz.

Out came Blanchard once again. Oregon got another runner in scoring position when Carlson stole second. Blanchard once again got into a 3-2 count before inducing a popup for the third out.

The Wildcats continued to struggle at the plate as well as in the circle. Through the first four innings, they had two singles and a walk.

The team finally found some life in the fifth. Tayler Biehl and Logan Cole were both quickly dismissed via strikeouts. With two outs, Jasmine Perezchica drew the walk to give Arizona its fourth baserunner of the game.

Down to her last strike, Blaise Biringer hit an RBI double to get Arizona’s first run of the series. Raegan Breedlove entered the circle for Oregon, but the Wildcats still had a taste for scoring.

In a scary moment for an injured Arizona team, Breedlove hit Dakota Kennedy. Kennedy looked to be hurt, but she ran it out and stood on first base shaking her arm. Olivia DiNardo stepped in and got the two-RBI double to make it a 4-3 game. Skaggs grounded out to end the inning, but the Wildcats had new life.

It didn’t last long. Blanchard once again fell behind the leadoff hitter 3-0 in the bottom of the inning. She got the groundball out but walked the next batter on four straight pitches. Carlson got three straight balls from Blanchard, as well. The 3-1 pitch was launched out of the park to give Carlson four RBIs and the Ducks a 6-3 lead.

That ended Blanchard’s time in the circle for the second time. It didn’t end the long balls from Oregon, though.

Aissa Silva entered in relief. She, too, fell behind the batter but was able to work the count full. The 3-2 pitch to Tehya Bird was a solo shot. The Ducks had back-to-back home runs and had regained all of the ground that Arizona took in the top half of the frame.

The Ducks scored another run in the sixth to account for the final margin of victory.

Blanchard took the loss to drop her record to 6-2. Netz gave up two earned runs on three hits and a walk in 0.1 IP. Silva surrendered two earned runs on three hits and a walk in 1.2 IP. She also had one wild pitch.

Arizona’s offense had five hits with two coming off the bat of Netz. DiNardo led the team with two RBIs.

Biringer led off for the team and went 1 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI. While she is only hitting .257 in conference play, she has picked it up lately. Biringer is averaging .438 in the month of April.

The Pac-12 Network confirmed during the game that Sophia Carroll did not make the trip to Eugene. There has been no explanation for her absence.

Carroll has been the starting shortstop for most of the past two seasons. Although she played against UCLA in Tucson last week, it’s the second straight road trip that Carroll has missed. Cole has taken over at shortstop and made several impressive plays on defense.

Arizona (25-20, 3-14) will try to salvage a game and end its conference losing streak on Sunday at 12 p.m. MST. It will complete the Wildcats’ regular season road schedule.