Arizona softball has spent the last month with players coming and going due to injury or personal concerns. None hurt more than the loss of slugger Carlie Scupin on Mar. 15 when she was hit by a pitch that broke her left forearm.
Scupin progressed week by week, putting in the work so she could be back on the field at the earliest possible moment. Last weekend, she had progressed to actually wearing her uniform in the dugout. This week, it was finally time to take the field.
“It felt great to get back,” Scupin said “Because it’s been such a long time, and being able to be out there was just awesome. I’m glad I’m back for the rest of the season. And I just really appreciate all the support from my teammates and our athletic trainer and everything. It was a really cool moment, honestly.”
Scupin went 0 for 1 at the plate with two walks. The crowd celebrated the announcement of her name in pregame and again when she came to the plate in the second inning.
“I mean, it’s huge,” Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said. “Anytime she’s on the field, it gives us a big boost. I thought she had a crazy competitive first at-bat for that being her first at-bat. It’s funny when you step out of the fire for a little bit and then you hop back in just, having some perspective for just going up and competing. So it was good to see her back on the field today.”
It was a huge emotional lift for the Wildcats, but it wasn’t enough to snap their 13-game losing streak in Pac-12 play. The team once again fell behind early and couldn’t respond, losing 9-4 to Oregon State to extend their conference losing streak to 14 games. They have won five of their last 19 games with all of the victories coming outside of the conference.
Devyn Netz had a strong outing at Oregon on Sunday in a no-decision. As has been a tendency on several occasions this season, she couldn’t follow it up with a second straight strong outing. Lowe thinks all of the pitchers on the staff are trying to take too much on themselves.
“She does her best when she’s relaxed and just trusting her stuff,” Lowe said. “And I think that’s the biggest thing, that she stays loose and lets her ball spin and really just trusts that it’s going to do what she wants it to do. And I believe that she can come out and be a different person tomorrow, the next day, every single time.”
One place Netz and the rest of the staff can be different is their trust in their defense. Lowe said that she believes they all think they have to do it by themselves. Meanwhile, their defense is making great plays that could take some of that pressure off the pitchers.
To that end, with the Wildcats trailing 6-4 in the top of the seventh and a runner on, Jasmine Perezchica made a diving catch to get the first out for Aissa Silva. For a while, it looked like it would keep Arizona within closing distance of Oregon State. Just an inning earlier, third baseman Blaise Biringer made a big catch in foul territory to get the out and keep the Beavers from stretching their lead.
“I thought Blaise was huge defensively all game, and Jaz was huge defensively,” Lowe said. “You wish that we could feel like we can pitch into our defense instead of thinking it’s all on their shoulders, which it never is. It’s...a collective effort to beat somebody. And I think if everybody just does their job in its simplest form, then we’re going to be successful at the end of the day.”
Netz lasted 2.2 innings. She gave up five earned runs on eight hits. Four of the hits went for extra bases with two doubles and two home runs.
Things got bumpy early on. Netz sailed through the first inning but gave up a solo home run to the first batter of the second. After two, the Beavers had one run on two hits. The floodgates opened in the third.
Netz gave up base hits to the first four batters of the third inning. The second hit was a two-run home run to extend the OSU lead to 3-0. Two straight groundouts didn’t end the onslaught.
The second groundout put another run on the board. There were finally two outs, but getting the third one was extremely difficult. Netz allowed two two-out singles to reach base, and her day was over.
Sydney Somerndike came in to relieve Netz. She got the Wildcats out of the third-inning jam without any more runs scoring and had a strong 1-2-3 fourth inning.
Arizona was down 4-0, but it was still early. Freshman designated player Olivia DiNardo got the first of her two hits of the day, then Scupin drew her second walk. Paige Dimlar followed with a three-run home run that made it a one-run game.
The two teams traded runs in the fifth, but Oregon State dealt the death blow in the top of the seventh. Three more runs on four hits made it a five-run ball game. The Wildcats put one runner on in the bottom of the inning, but they couldn’t get any runs across.
The Oregon State pitching staff came into the game with the worst ERA in the Pac-12. Starting pitcher Ellie Garcia had an ERA of 4.27 compared to the 3.52 of Netz. Arizona’s high-powered offense only got five hits and four walks against Garcia and reliever Tarni Stepto.
Arizona has the second-worst ERA in the Pac-12 and the Beavers made them look like it. OSU had 15 hits and four walks with four of the Wildcats’ five pitchers making an appearance.