Now comes the nervous wait to see if Arizona will make the 64-team field of the NCAA tournament after the Wildcats lost their fifth series of the Pac-12 season with the 4-3 loss to Stanford on Saturday on Senior Day at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Arizona, which had an RPI ranking of No. 41 entering Saturday, has the longest active streak of postseason appearances in the nation with 34, dating to 1987.
The last time the Wildcats did not advance to the NCAA tournament was in Mike Candrea’s first year as coach in 1986.
Senior pitcher Hanah Bowen, who pitched a complete game in Saturday’s loss, Carlie Scupin and coach Caitlin Lowe all took the wait-and-see stance when asked if Arizona (33-20, 8-16 Pac-12) has done eough this season to make the NCAA tournament field.
Selection Sunday is at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.
“I’m not sure yet but I’m excited to see where we’ll be,” Bowen said when asked about Arizona’s postseason chances.
“We’ll be watching tomorrow and whatever happens, happens, but I think the important part is if we do keep that seventh-inning mentality,” Scupin said, eluding to Arizona rallying for two runs in the seventh Saturday against Stanford before falling short.
“You want to go into (Selection Sunday) making it undeniable, and I think that’s not us this year,” said Lowe, in her first season after replacing Candrea. “We’re just hoping for more games to play in and I really felt like that seventh inning, we were just scraping and scraping and doing everything we can.
“I think that’s the type of team we have to be regardless of postseason or not. That’s the kind of softball we have to play all the time.”
The Wildcats showed some fight against Stanford (36-19, 11-13 Pac-12) in the bottom of the seventh inning after scoring only one run in the previous 13 innings of the series.
Speedsters Jasmine Perezchica and Janelle Meoño hit consecutive infield singles to start the rally.
With one out, Allie Skaggs was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Izzy Pacho then reached on a fielder’s choice grounder to second, scoring Perezchica. Blaise Biringer pinch-ran for Pacho before Scupin came to the plate.
Scupin hit a double to left-center field scoring Meoño and moving Biringer to third. The hit traveled close to the warning track and eluded diving centerfielder Taylor Gindlesperger.
“It felt pretty good off my bat,” Scupin said. “I was just hoping too that nobody caught it to score a couple of runs.”
Biringer was not sent home for the potential tying run by third-base coach Lauren Lappin after the Cardinal’s relay throw was effective, Lowe mentioned.
“It was bam, bam, and it probably would have been a close play at the plate,” she said.
Paige Dimler followed with a groundout to pitcher Alana Vawter, who struck out three and walked none in her complete-game performance to improve to 21-12.
Arizona had 11 hits off Vawter but left nine runners on base.
Encouraging was the way Scupin, a former Tucson High standout, kept improving at the plate, going 3 for 4 with after getting two hits in her at-bats Friday in the 10-0 loss in five innings. She is now batting .217 in conference games and .377 overall to go with her 17 home runs and 51 RBIs.
“Working my way back, getting my confidence back, for sure,” Scupin said. “I just need to keep it going.”
Whether or not she will keep it going this season will be determined after the team gathers for the selection show Sunday.
Going against Arizona: The eight conference wins are the fewest for the Wildcats in their Pac-12 history and they lost the series last week at Cal (tied for last in the conference with Arizona).
The Wildcats also lost a series to Stanford (36-19, 11-13) for the first time at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Cardinal last beat Arizona in a series in 2009 at Palo Alto, Calif.
Bowen’s complete-game performance was uplifting for the Wildcats, who celebrated her career on Senior Day along with fellow seniors Bailey Thompson (CDO graduate) and Peanut Martinez.
Bowen (10-10) scattered six hits with three earned runs along with two walks and four strikeouts.
After the Cardinal rallied for two runs in the fifth to go ahead 4-1, Bowen retired seven straight batters, including two by strikeout.
“I tried to keep it all together,” said Bowen, who was hugged by Candrea and former teammate Dejah Mulipalo after the game. “A lot of emotions out there, especially with the seniors — just keep staying in the present and just one pitch at a time.
“I thought I competed out there. It’s just tough we couldn’t get some base hits and stuff like that to string us together. Rather than that, I’m proud of this team.”
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 14, 2022
If this was it for Arizona, that means the first year of the Lowe era has concluded.
When asked of her thoughts about how the season went, Lowe mentioned, “Figuring out how to be consistent is going to be the biggest thing moving forward.”
“We don’t lack the talent. It’s just showing up every day and being the same team,” she continued. “That seven-inning team (against Stanford on Saturday), I don’t think that team loses to a lot of people. If we throw punches like that one through nine in the lineup …”
She interrupted her train of thought by thinking about how Bowen was resilient in her last appearance at Hillenbrand.
“I was so proud of Bo today; she fought her tail off and really just laid her heart out there for that last start here at Rita,” she said. “But, man, just competitive the whole day and really not caring about the results, just putting everything into every pitch. … So just hoping we can maintain that consistency moving forward.”
Asked what she will miss the most about playing at Arizona, Bowen mentioned her teammates and her fondness of competing at Hillenbrand.
“Just being on this field … this field has so much tradition, so much history,” she said. “That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”
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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.