Arizona gets closer to a breakthrough but loses to Washington after giving up late lead

Paige Dimler belted her second home run of the series and fourth this season in the second inning of Saturday’s game with Washington (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Arizona’s hunger for satisfaction mounted Saturday — this loss even more frustrating than the rest of its program-record eight-game losing streak because the Wildcats came so close to tasting victory.

Arizona could not hold on to a 5-2 lead going to the seventh inning, allowing Washington to rally for five runs — four on a grand slam by leadoff hitter Baylee Klingler — in the 7-5 loss in front of the 2,668 bewildered fans at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Of the eight losses in the streak, this was the closest the Wildcats (19-12, 0-8 Pac-12) have come to winning and they are hanging on to the positives — and the game had plenty from Sharlize Palacios continuing to break out of her batting slump and Madi Elish pitching an effective four innings as the starter.

“Honestly, from this weekend so far, we’re taking a lot of good things out of it,” said Ironwood Ridge grad Allie Skaggs, who belted her ninth home run of the season in the game. “I think you’re seeing a glimpse of what our team could do. We’re finally playing in a way that we’re playing together.”

Arizona (19-12, 0-8 Pac-12) looked like it was finally putting it all together — pitching, defense, power hitting and timely hitting — to win its first game since March 13 against Marist at Hillenbrand.

The Wildcats could not hold the 5-2 lead in the seventh with Hanah Bowen in the circle after Kinsey Fiedler and Kelley Lynch reached on singles and Angie Yellen was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.

After pinch-hitter Silentrain Espinoza struck out, Jenn Cummings walked to force in Fiedler and cut the lead to 5-3.

Baylee Klinger followed with her second home run of the game, a grand slam to center field, to give Washington a 7-5 lead.

“I thought Bow started well,” said Arizona coach Caitlin Lowe of Bowen, who retired six straight batters in the fifth and sixth after relieving Elish. “It’s just closing. It’s just finishing.”

Lowe added that she believes the first inning in which Arizona left the bases loaded “lost us the game.”

Skaggs was hit by a pitch on her left shin and Carlie Scupin and Palacios walked. Izzy Pacho struck out before Palacios’ walk and Blaise Biringer struck out swinging to end the inning.

“We had so many chances and not competitive at-bats in that first inning hurt us for not putting someone away early,” Lowe said.

Palacios was mired in a 1-for-22 hitting slump before finishing 2 for 3 with a run and a walk.

Elish was effective allowing only two hits (both home runs) in four innings with three strikeouts and no walks.

Skaggs commented that Elish, whose sister Miranda played at Oregon and Texas, is “one of my favorite people on the planet — she just competes.”

Cienega grad Blaise Biringer goes after a toss to the outfield during warmups (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“We just have a great bond with her,” Skaggs added. “To see her compete and do well … she knows that we have her (back) and I feel it back from her. I know that she’s giving the same energy back to me.”

Despite the unproductive first inning from Arizona’s lineup, Elish received some support early. Arizona continued to show signs of life after scoring only two runs in 38 innings against UCLA and ASU in the previous two weekends.

The home runs by Dimler (her second of the series) in the second inning and Skaggs in the third combined with a pinch-hit RBI single by CDO graduate Bailey Thompson put Arizona ahead 3-1 in the fourth inning.

Elish retired the side in the fourth after Arizona took a 2-1 lead on Skaggs’ home run. That was significant inasmuch as the Wildcats could not hold the lead twice in Friday’s 12-7 loss, allowing the Huskies (21-10, 3-5) to immediately respond in their next at-bats.

Allie Skaggs belted her ninth home run of the season in Saturday’s 7-5 loss to Washington (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Lowe inserted Bowen in relief of Elish after Yellen led off the fifth inning with a home run to cut the lead to 3-2.

Bowen responded by striking out the first two batters she faced before the third batter flew out to centerfield to end the inning. She retired the side in the sixth, although hits by Sami Reynolds and Madison Huskey reached the warning track where center fielder Giulia Koutsoyanopulos tracked both down.

Arizona increased its lead to 5-2 in the fifth on a two-run single by Biringer, who is 4 for 7 with three RBIs in the series.

“I thought (Elish) competed her tail off,” Lowe said. “We needed a different look (relieving Elish with Bowen). It was the right decision. Bow came in on fire and just didn’t finish.”

The Wildcats will try to salvage a win in the three-game series Sunday at noon at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Most importantly, Arizona wants to get a win to end the losing streak to give them more confidence before heading to Corvallis, Ore., next weekend for three games against Oregon State.

“We show up like we’re going to win the game,” Lowe said. “That’s important and it’s important to keep showing up that way. I still feel like we can compete as a full unit. “


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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