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Arizona softball falls to 8th place in Pac-12 with loss to California

Arizona softball’s Devyn Netz reaches first base on the error, allowing the tying run to score in the first inning against California on May 5, 2023 at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The softball season is growing short, as is Arizona’s rope. The Wildcats went into game one of its final regular season series tied for 7th in the Pac-12 standings and holding the tiebreaker over Arizona State. Simply maintaining pace with ASU would keep the Wildcats out of the play-in game of the inaugural Pac-12 Tournament and a possible matchup with UCLA in the next round.

When ASU won its opening game at Oregon State, there was even more pressure on Arizona to pull out a win against California. The Wildcats couldn’t do it, falling to the Golden Bears 8-6.

“They came out on fire today, and I couldn’t be more proud of the prep and the sustained effort, no matter what happens,” said Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe. “And to me they have to come out in the exact same way [tomorrow], and realize they faced all three of their pitchers already.”

The ‘Cats were once again able to score, but they weren’t able to close out innings on the defensive side of the ball. All of the Bears runs came with two outs.

“We have to close,” Lowe said. “I mean, good hitters come up in those clutch situations, but I think Devyn [Netz] knows she can close in those situations. too.”

Freshman lefthander Aissa Silva got the start for the Wildcats, but she pitched just 2.2 innings. Silva gave up two runs on one hit and two walks.

After getting the first two outs of the third inning, Silva was due to face the Bears’ home run leader Makena Smith. Smith drew a walk in her first at-bat and was knocked in by a home run off the bat of Elon Butler. Rather than have her freshman face the duo again, Lowe lifted her for Netz.

Netz got the final out of the third, but she ran into problems in the fifth. A hit batter and a bunt put two runners on with two outs. A high fly off the bat of shortstop Acacia Anders snuck over the fence for a three-run homer that gave the Bears a 5-4 lead.

Arizona struck back in the bottom of the inning, tying it up on a home run from Allie Skaggs, but the Wildcats couldn’t keep the Bears off the bases. Three runs on three hits in the top of the sixth gave Cal its biggest lead of the game at 8-5.

“Aissa knew she was starting today and Dev knew she was coming in at some point to close the game for us,” Lowe said. “So it’s just all based on feel. I liked the matchup with the first two hitters [of the third inning] for Aissa, and then getting Devyn in when we did. That worked well, I thought. Just the sixth inning, if we could have that back, but then she executed in the seventh to get some really good hitters. So just have to figure out a way to put more runs on the board or execute in that sixth inning.”

Netz gave up six earned runs on six hits and two hit batters in 4.1 innings.

In addition to Skaggs’ solo home run, Olivia DiNardo had a two-run shot in the third inning. Skaggs ended the game with a team-high 13 home runs on the year. DiNardo now has seven in her freshman campaign.

Carlie Scupin had her first extra-base hit since returning from a broken arm last week. She hit an RBI double in the bottom of the first. She was one for two at the plate with two walks on the day.

“I feel like I just have to trust it at this point,” Scupin said. “Since my injury, I worked really hard to come back pretty strong and at this point in the season, I just want to give it what I got.”

As a team, the Wildcats had eight hits and six walks, but they left nine runners on base.

Arizona came into the game with an RPI of 52. It was at No. 44 last week before going 2-1 against Oregon State. To put themselves in a position to be in the postseason will take a lot, but the players can’t let that overwhelm them.

“I think for us it’s just like taking it pitch by pitch and not getting too ahead of ourselves and looking too far forward,” Scupin said. “We have games that we need to win and so just taking it pitch by pitch, inning by inning, and trying to win every single thing.”