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Arizona softball ends 14-game conference losing streak, levels series vs Oregon State

Arizona softball celebrates in the circle as the 14-game conference losing streak comes to an end against Oregon State on Apr. 29, 2023.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Arizona softball had not won a Pac-12 game since Saturday, Mar. 18 when the Wildcats defeated Utah 10-9 in nine innings. That was three days after UA lost Carlie Scupin to a broken forearm. With Scupin back for just her second game since that injury, Arizona was in danger of extending the conference losing streak to 15 games.

As rightfielder Paige Dimler squeezed the last fly ball off Frankie Hammoude’s bat in her glove, a cheer went up in Rita Hillenbrand Stadium that was about more than a 6-3 win over eighth-place Oregon State on a Saturday night in late April. It was about a team getting to the other side of a really tough stretch.It was about the chance to win their first series since the opening weekend at Arizona State. Most of all, it was about the players who stuck with it, standing in the pitcher’s circle as a team and singing “Bear Down, Arizona” with their fans.

“It felt so good,” said Arizona pitcher Devyn Netz.

It was an emotional night from start to finish. Before the game, the teams and the fans had a moment of silence for former Wildcat Stacy Redondo-Santa Cruz, who passed away following a stroke almost two weeks ago. The 52-year-old teacher was a member of Arizona’s first two national championships.

The Wildcats got off to a quick start on offense. Jasmine Perezchica returned to her leadoff role after hitting lower in the order for the past few weeks. She walked on four straight pitches to give Arizona something to work with right off the bat. She scored one of her two runs in the inning on a day when she went one for two with two walks at the plate.

“Right now, I’m just trying to help my team win and she’s just trying to put me in the best spot for that to be possible,” Perezchica said about the lineup changes in recent weeks.

Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe saw a change in Perezchica.

“I thought she was herself and she attacked her zone,” Lowe said. “I think she’s been reacting to pitches, and now she was just attacking everything that she could.”

As it has been throughout the losing streak, the defense was strong behind the pitchers.

“We’re trying to spark some sort of energy, whether it’s offensively or defensively...anything counts and anything works,” Perezchica said. “Just trying to help our pitchers out.”

Ali Blanchard got the start in the circle. As has been the case for Arizona’s starting pitchers quite a few times this season, the outing didn’t last long Blanchard allowed two earned runs in two innings. She gave up two hits and walked three.

After Arizona went up in the first inning on an RBI single by Olivia DiNardo that scored Perezchica, Oregon State bounced back to take the 2-1 lead with two runs in the second. That ended the outing for Blanchard.

Netz stepped in to try to pick up her teammate to start the third inning. She got things quickly under wraps by sitting the Beavers down in order.

“I thought Devyn coming in on fire was huge,” Lowe said. “And her just trusting your stuff. It allowed us to just go to work offensively.”

Again, the offense started with Perezchica. After what seems like weeks of hitting groundouts to shortstop, she got a short fly into left over the heads of the infielders. It gave Arizona the leadoff runner.

Dakota Kennedy made OSU pay for giving Arizona the baserunner. She hit her ninth home run of the season to put two more runs on the board and give the lead back to the Wildcats.

Netz surrendered one earned run on a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning. That was the sum total of the damage in five innings, but at the time it knotted the game up at three and put things in doubt again.

“She responded immediately after the homerun,” Lowe said. “The next hitter was an out...and that’s what I cared about. It was one run on the board. Who cares? Go back to work. So, I was really proud of her today.”

After giving up the solo shot to Eliana Gottlieb, it wasn’t just any out. Netz struck out Des Rivera looking. She ended the inning with the second of her two strikeouts, getting Abby Doerr swinging.

With the game still tied, Scupin got the first hit since her return with a single to lead off Arizona’s half of the fifth. Netz gave the ‘Cats two baserunners when relief pitcher Tarni Stepto hit her with a pitch. Allie Skaggs loaded the bases with a walk.

Blaise Biringer knocked two runs in with a single that was originally ruled an error. They were the go-ahead runs. Logan Cole tacked a run on with an RBI single, giving her two hits in the game and three for the season. Would Arizona be able to maintain the lead?

Netz and her defense rose to the occasion, working around a baserunner in each of the final two innings to slam the door on the win.

“Honestly, it’s what we needed right now and we’re just getting started,” Perezchica said.