If the Pac-12 coaches know what’s going on, Arizona softball has a bright future. Junior second baseman Allie Skaggs was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-Pac-12 and Pac-12 All-Defensive team after a huge year in the field and at the plate.
Skaggs wasn’t the only Wildcat honored, either. She was joined on the first team by Dakota Kennedy, who was also Pac-12 All-Freshman. Olivia DiNardo made both the Second Team All-Pac-12 and All-Freshman squads. Devyn Netz is a Second Team All-Pac-12 selection and Tayler Biehl joined the two other rookies on the All-Freshman team.
On Tuesday, Skaggs said that one of her goals this season was to be on the All-Defensive team. She not only accomplished that by having zero errors in 162 attempts, but she was honored as the best defender in the league. She became the fourth DPOY in Arizona softball history.
“I struggled mentally on defense a lot last year,” Skaggs said. “I was very anxious and nervous out there sometimes...I wasn’t comfortable at all....The one thing I vividly remember telling my dad, after we got eliminated, I told him I want to make the Pac-12 defensive team next year. Who knows if that’s gonna happen. I’m hoping so, but that was my goal.”
She reached that goal, but her accomplishments weren’t just on defense. Skaggs tied for the conference home run lead with 24 last season. This season, she had 13 home runs and led the league outright in both RBIs (59) and walks (36).
Kennedy started almost every game for Arizona in left field. Her regular season freshman campaign ended with a .357 batting average and 10 home runs. In conference play, she was even better. She hit .394 against Pac-12 teams and had eight of her home runs. She sent the ball out of the park twice against UCLA on Apr. 16.
DiNardo was a mainstay in the designated player spot and began getting more reps as the starting catcher when fifth-year senior Izzy Pacho stepped away for two weeks. The freshman led the team with a .388 batting average, which placed her third among Pac-12 freshmen and ninth overall. She also tied Skaggs for the team high with 10 doubles.
The final two players were critical for Arizona in a season marred by injuries and absences that sometimes left them extremely shorthanded. Netz was a force in the circle, at the plate, and at first base. She tied Skaggs for the team high with 13 home runs. Her 3.80 ERA and 160.1 innings pitched were by far the best on the pitching staff. She struck out 123 batters including a career high 11 against San Diego on Mar. 31.
Biehl came to Arizona as a middle infielder, but Arizona had needs all over the field. Head coach Caitlin Lowe had to get especially creative when she dropped to 14 available players at one point with nine position players, a pitcher/infielder, and four pitchers.
Biehl played shortstop, right field, first base, and trained as the backup catcher when Arizona was reduced to just one available catcher. She often played both right field and first base in the same game when Netz was moved from first to the circle. She had 28 hits and 13 RBIs as a freshman. She tied Kennedy for the most triples on the team with two.
Arizona takes the field against Arizona State in game one of the inaugural Pac-12 Softball Tournament at 6 p.m. MST on Wednesday, May 10.