By Ian Sacks
OKLAHOMA CITY – After looking at preseason college softball rankings, it comes as no surprise the Arizona Wildcats reached their third straight Women’s College World Series. After looking at the team a third of the way into Pac-12 play, one would get a very different impression as the Wildcats finished 0-8 in the conference.
With a roster that is mostly underclassmen, first-year coach Caitlin Lowe has seen a wealth of growth and maturity among her players over the last two months, particularly during the last three weeks.
“I think it’s been our whole team,” Lowe said. “They had to kind of get a little bit vulnerable. … They realized that they could do it together, have those weaknesses, have those flaws.”
Those flaws have subsided as the Wildcats have won six of the seven games they’ve played this postseason. In their 3-1 victory over conference foe Oregon State in an elimination game Friday, pitchers Devyn Netz and Hanah Bowen tossed six no-hit innings and yielded just one run on three hits.
“A lot of work has gone into our relationship both in the bullpen and off the field,” Netz said. “It’s something we worked on because we faced a lot of adversity during conference play. When we came here, we had a clean slate, so knowing that is pretty fun.”
Netz started the game and tossed five innings. She retired the last seven batters she faced before handing the ball over to Bowen.
“(We’re) just feeding off each other,” Bowen said. “She brings great energy. I bring great energy. I think just (we’re) building one another, and (we) just keep competing.”
Lowe opted to bring Bowen in to give the Beavers a different look in the final two frames. The redshirt senior threw two no-hit innings and picked up the win.
“The relationship (between Bowen and Netz) got better throughout the season, and now they lean on each other,” Lowe said. “And they want to complete those games together.
“(We needed) something up in the zone. (Netz) doesn’t throw that. That’s not her specialty, so (Bowen) comes in, and she does it for her. And that makes my heart happy that they’re leaning on each other, and not just in the circle but all around – offense, defense and in the circle.”
The Wildcat pitching staff has locked down opposing lineups during this postseason run. It has allowed either one or zero runs in four of the seven games. The most it has yielded is four in a single contest.
In addition to the success in the pitching circle, Arizona has also relied on timely hitting as well. The Wildcats have come from behind four times. Friday was one of those comebacks as they tied the game at 1 in the second and then took the lead when Carlie Scupin and Blaise Biringer both smacked RBI hits in the sixth.
“That’s the most calm, cool, collected I’ve seen (Scupin) all year,” Lowe said. “For it to be on this stage, it’s pretty cool.”
The Wildcats play for a berth in the Women’s College World Series semifinals Sunday at 4 p.m. (Arizona time) against Texas.