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Arizona softball brings out the bats to defeat California on senior day

Fifth-year senior Izzy Pacho scores a run for Arizona softball in Game 3 of a series against California on May 7, 2023.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

There wasn’t much to be decided on Sunday afternoon. With the losses to California in the first two games of the series, Arizona softball had locked itself into the 8/9 play-in game of the inaugural Pac-12 Tournament. When Arizona State lost to Oregon State earlier in the day, that Wednesday game was set to be an all-Grand Canyon State affair between the Wildcats and the Sun Devils.

There was still some pride to protect and three seniors to honor, though. Arizona did that, bringing out the bats and getting a solid start from junior Devyn Netz for a 9-4 victory over the Golden Bears.

“I remember Coach [Mike Candrea] used to say we don’t lose on senior day,” said fifth-year senior Izzy Pacho.

Netz, who appeared in every game of the series, threw a complete game on Sunday to see that they sent their seniors out on a high note. She allowed four runs, three of them earned. She walked three and struck out six, including the final batter of the game.

Netz was supported by an even stronger offensive effort. Dakota Kennedy and Carlie Scupin led the way with home runs for the Wildcats. Freshman shortstop Logan Cole also contributed 2 RBIs on a 2 for 3 day at the plate.

The freshman tandem of Cole and Kennedy broke the game open in the third inning. With Arizona leading 3-1, Blaise Biringer reached on an error, then Pacho and Kaiah Altmeyer walked. Cole, who was 5 for 13 coming in since she started getting regular at-bats as the starting shortstop in the last two series, knocked Biringer and Pacho in with a single.

“I think the hardest part for her in the beginning of the year was trying not to be Carlie Scupin and Liv [DiNardo] and whoever, and just really embrace who she is,” said Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe. “And I thought you saw that this weekend she can pick good spin, she can hit different speeds, and she can find a way to get things through the infield to score some runs.”

Kennedy, batting in the leadoff spot for the second game in a row due to a leg injury to Jasmine Perezchica, then stepped in and hit a 2-2 pitch out of the park to put the Wildcats up 8-1. It was one of Kennedy’s two hits in her three at-bats. She also drew a walk and had a total of four RBIs.

Scupin, who was playing in her sixth game since returning from a broken arm that kept her out for over a month, stepped in with the bases empty and hit the first pitch out to right field for the 9-1 lead.

“It was a changeup,” Scupin said. “It felt really good to get that one. It was actually funny because Dakota, right before I went up to bat, she hit her home run. She was telling me about the pitcher. And she was saying, ‘Just sit change, sit change.’ So she definitely helped me get through that one.”

Scupin now has six walks and four hits in 20 plate appearances since her return on Apr. 28. She went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs against the Golden Bears. The home run was her second extra-base hit since her return.

“I feel a lot better than last week,” Scupin said. “I think I was definitely ready last weekend, but I also think that I had to find the balance between trying too hard to be ready and just trusting my abilities.”

With Arizona six outs from the run rule, Cal showed its own offensive power. Sona Halajian led off the fourth inning with a solo home run to cut the lead to 9-2. A single and a throwing error on Cole put two on with no outs. A groundout and a single scored two more in the inning to cut the lead to five runs after four innings.

Arizona scored in each of the first three innings but couldn’t continue the offensive roll in the last half of the game. The Wildcats’ pitching and defense limited the Bears to scoring in just the first and fourth innings.

Fifth-year senior Pacho got the start behind the plate in the final regular season game of her career. She went 0 for 1 with two walks and scored two runs, but her biggest play might have been on defense.

With the leadoff runner reaching in the top of the seventh, Netz struck out the second batter. Pacho threw down to first for the strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play. The runner was initially called safe, but Lowe appealed the call and won.

“I’ve been kind of frustrated throwing them out at second,” Pacho said. “I feel like my throws had been on point and they’re just either leaving early or I’m just not getting them. So as soon as they put her in, I said, I’m gonna get you at first. If I can’t get you at second, I’m gonna get you at first. So as soon as she struck out and I saw her off, I just went for it. It’s almost your instincts just take over. So that was super exciting when he came out and said she was out. Oh, my gosh, that’s such a good feeling.”

Arizona honored Pacho and fellow seniors Ali Ashner and Breezy Hardy after the game.

The No. 8 seed Wildcats will play No. 9 ASU on Wednesday, May 10 at 6 p.m. MST for the right to face No. 1 seed UCLA on Thursday.