Arizona pitching was the question coming into the 2024 college softball season. So far the answers look positive as the Wildcats improved to 4-0 on the season with an 8-0 five-inning win over North Texas on a cold Saturday evening at Hillenbrand Stadium.
In Friday’s first game, Arizona got a combined perfect game from freshman Brooke Mannon and senior Ali Blanchard. Sophomore lefty Aissa Silva was the pitching answer on Saturday.
On Saturday, Silva pitched 4.1 innings, striking out a career-high eight batters. She walked two but did not give up a run. She leaned on her curveball, but she feels like she is getting more comfortable using all of her pitches.
“I was just in my zone, using all my pitches and knowing that I had my defense behind me,” Silva said.
Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe was a bit concerned about how Silva started the at-bats, but she liked that the young pitcher was not defeated by that.
“I thought she got behind on some people, so it was kind of nice to see her come back from that,” Lowe said. “Honestly, I don’t think she started off the at-bats necessarily the way she wanted to and we had a few leadoff walks, which you don’t want to see, but came right back and responded.”
Mannon, who pitched four innings of perfect ball on Friday, relieved Silva in the top of the fifth inning. She struck out one and induced a groundball out in 0.2 innings. She has yet to give up a hit to start her career and has six strikeouts in 4.2 innings pitched.
On the offensive end, the Wildcats did what they have the first few games. They didn’t get much going early, but things heated up within a few innings. After scoring no runs in the first, they put up one in the second, then six in the third before getting into run-rule territory with one in the fourth.
“Just pass the bat to the next person,” first baseman Carlie Scupin said. “Have a quality at-bat out there. And I think our base running is a game changer right now. We’re taking extra bases. We’re not afraid out there. So I think we’re doing a great job of just putting a ton of runs on the board.”
The offense was varied. Six Wildcats got hits. Scupin’s only hit of the game went over the fence for her third home run in four hits this season.
Scupin had 10 home runs last year after missing about six weeks with a broken arm. She started to come back around to full health and confidence late last season. That has carried into the new season.
“It’s just awesome to be back on the field with everybody, and I’m just focusing on playing my game,” Scupin said. “We’re all focusing on playing our games and just going out there and having fun, honestly.”
Olvia DiNardo and Blaise Biringer each got two hits. One of DiNardo’s was her second home run in as many days. The home run gave Arizona the eight-run lead heading into the top of the fifth and increased her career total to nine homers.
“She’s just loose out there, honestly,” Scupin said of DiNardo. “She just does her thing and it’s awesome to see. And, I mean, our lineup is stacked, so she’s doing an amazing job.”
Biringer went two for three, stole a base and scored a run. The stolen base was part of a double steal by her and Paige Dimler. They brought Arizona’s total to five in four games this season with at least one stolen base in each game.
“Blaise has been a sparkplug this entire weekend,” Lowe said. “So, for her to go in there and just attack right away, I think that was huge for us and then we get into pass-the-bat mode and it starts to catch fire.”
Arizona tries to keep the fire going with a game against Northern Colorado to end the Candrea Classic. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. MST on Sunday, Feb. 11.