Arizona Softball

No. 4 Arizona eases past Southern Utah thanks to Tucson influence

No. 4 Arizona was looking to sweep the weekend’s slate of games Sunday in the Hillenbrand Invitational facing Southern Utah, which it had already beaten 8-0 in a sixth-inning run-rule on Friday.

The Wildcats breezed past the Thunderbirds, run-ruling them again 10-1 in five innings to improve to 5-0 on the season thanks to a strong Tucson influence including freshmen Devyn Netz of Ironwood Ridge and Carlie Scupin of Tucson High.

“Devyn will get her feet wet. She’s very capable,” Mike Candrea said Saturday night when he mentioned Netz would get her first career start Sunday against Southern Utah.

“I feel good with Bowen throwing well, and if Devyn throws well, we can walk in with four pitchers (including Mariah Lopez, Alyssa Denham and Hanah Bowen).”

Netz had a strong collegiate debut in the circle. After a rough first inning in which Netz allowed an RBI double, she locked in and seemed to get strong as the game moved along. 

Netz did not finish the game but ended her day going four innings on 62 pitches with five strikeouts while giving up one run on three hits. Throughout her time in the circle, she was able to stay around 63-65 mph, topping at 66 on the radar gun.

In the fifth inning, freshman Jessie Fontes made her first appearance of the season, giving up just one hit and getting her first career strikeout to close out the game.

The Wildcats got productivity throughout the lineup, giving them the ability to score in different ways. Arizona got a monster game from the middle of the order with hitters Malia Martinez and Sharlize Palacios each hitting a home run. Together, they knocked in seven runs.

It was a game of many firsts for Arizona’s true freshmen, including Scupin, who came through for the Wildcats early. With her team down 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Scupin walked to the plate with a runner on and blasted her first career home run deep in the left-center field bleachers giving Arizona a 2-1 lead.

Here are Netz and Scupin, who talked about what it was like to finally get to play in an Arizona uniform after the extended offseason, and they discussed what they learned about their team during the Hillenbrand Invitational:

Arizona struggled last season to get any production out of the bottom of its order, and it wasn’t until the final two weeks of a shortened season before things started turning around in that part of the lineup.

Coming into the 2021 season, one significant question mark was if the bottom half could produce to take this team to the next level.

After a small five-game sample size, the answer right now is clearly yes it can. In the Hillenbrand Invitational, batters seven through nine collected 15 hits with two home runs and seven RBIs.

Here’s a weekend recap from myself and AZ Desert Swarm’s Ryan Kelapire discussing what we learned about Arizona and talking about what questions still need to be answered headed into next week’s Wildcat Invitational at Hillenbrand.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.

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