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Taryne Mowatt-McKinney hired as Mississippi State softball pitching coach, per report

2007 ESPY Awards - Backstage and Audience

Taryne Mowatt-McKinney has landed on her feet. Arizona softball head coach Caitlin Lowe parted ways with her former teammate and longtime Wildcat pitching coach after the 2023 season after the Wildcats struggled in the circle for the second straight season. Mississippi State head coach Samantha Ricketts doesn’t appear worried about what happened in Tucson recently, as Extra Inning Softball is reporting that Mowatt-McKinney will be the next pitching coach for the Bulldogs.

Mowatt-McKinney was hired by former head coach Mike Candrea in October of 2017, moving former assistant coach Stacy Iveson into an administrative role to open up an on-field coaching position for the 2007 Women's College World Series Most Valuable Player. Mowatt-McKinney was the last Wildcat pitcher to lead the program to a title, and the program was in the midst of a seven-year absence from Oklahoma City after being upset by Baylor in the super regionals in May of 2017.

The team didn’t make it back to the WCWS in her first season, but the pitching staff had a 1.94 ERA. Three of the Wildcats’ four pitchers had ERAs of 1.85 or less that season, although only Taylor McQuillin and Alyssa Denham pitched more than 30 innings. McQuillin improved from a 1.92 ERA the previous season to a 1.68 in Mowatt-McKinney’s first year.

The team finally broke through and returned to OKC in Mowatt-McKinney’s second season developing the pitchers. It was the first of three consecutive Women’s College World Series appearances by the team.

In 2019, the staff ERA dropped yet again, going down to 1.61 as five of Arizona’s six pitchers had ERAs below 2.00 and two were below 0.50. Only freshman Vanessa Foreman broke the barrier of two earned runs with a 3.75 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched. Foreman also had the highest WHIP that season at 1.29. As a staff, the WHIP was 0.94, and opposing hitters hit just .183 against the Wildcats.

With the pandemic, 2020 was an unsettled season that ended early. In the shortened season, Arizona’s two primary pitchers—Denham and Mariah Lopez—again had ERAs below 2.00. Denham was at 1.92 in 15 appearances and Lopez even lower at 1.38 in 15 appearances.

Things started to go off track for Arizona’s pitchers in 2021. While Denham remained steady, putting together an ERA near her Arizona career average at 1.95, Lopez could not replicate what she had done in 2020. Her ERA jumped to 2.79, higher than anyone on the staff except for freshman Devyn Netz.

After being a highly-touted transfer and expected ace just the year before, Lopez fell behind utility player Hanah Bowen in the pitching pecking order, becoming the number three pitcher on the staff. Her 17 home runs surrendered were the most on the staff even though she pitched far fewer innings than either Denham or Bowen. Approximately one at-bat in every 17 ended up in a home run. The regression of Lopez inspired unrest in some of the fan base, which blamed Mowatt-McKinney for the lapse.

Still, the team made it back to Oklahoma City in what turned out to be Candrea’s final season at the helm.

Lowe kept her former teammate on staff when she took over in the summer of 2022. The pitching took a tumble, with the Arizona staff’s ERA exploding from 2.22 the year before to 3.70 in 2022. The program chose to conceal injuries to its two top pitchers, Bowen and Netz, until the postseason. It did Mowatt-McKinney and her pitchers no favors.

Netz had a 3.45 ERA in 136 IP. She wore a boot on days she did not pitch due to a foot injury as she put up her worst numbers to date in the circle. Bowen had a 3.76 ERA in 139.2 innings, at least some of which were pitched while dealing with a hip injury. Only sophomore Jessie Fontes had an ERA below 3.45, but she pitched just 27.2 innings.

Both Netz and Bowen came on strong in the postseason, leading the Wildcats back to Oklahoma for their third straight appearance in the Women’s College World Series. Arizona couldn’t keep the momentum, though.

The Wildcats leaned heavily on Netz in 2023 after being unable to get an impact transfer before the season. Netz had the only ERA under 4.00 with a career-worst 3.88. On top of pitching 171.1 innings, Netz also hit and played first base when the Wildcats lost slugger Carlie Scupin to injury.

It was a huge task for the junior. Freshman Aissa Silva had the second-most innings with 54. No one else had more than 46.

Mowatt-McKinney now has the chance to prove that she’s the coach who led the staff to three straight seasons of sub-2.25 ERAs rather than the one whose pitchers struggled against the pandemic, injuries, and youth in her final three seasons.

She heads to a team that had its own struggles last season. The Bulldogs finished 28-25, even with the Wildcats in the loss column but with one fewer win. They went out in the first game of the SEC Tournament and were the only SEC team not to make the NCAA Tournament.

The staff, which featured seven pitchers, had a collective ERA of 3.13. They spread the innings out with no one pitching more than 79.1 innings and three pitching at least 70 innings. Only one of the Bulldogs’ primary pitchers had an ERA under 3.00 with Josey Marron’s 2.38 leading those who pitched more than 60 innings. Bri Bower had a 1.11 ERA but pitched just 6.1 innings.