Arizona’s Hanah Bowen and Devyn Netz each achieved one complete-game victory during the 53-game regular season, but they have combined for that feat in all five of the Wildcats’ postseason games by overcoming challenges with the help of an impeccable defense.
Bowen and Netz are a combined 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in the postseason with a defense behind them that has only one error in 36 innings against Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi State.
The result is Arizona’s 25th trip to the Women’s College World Series, starting Thursday at Oklahoma City as an unseeded team against No. 7 Oklahoma State. This is a historic achievement for the underdog Wildcats (38-20) inasmuch as they are the school’s first team with a .500 or lower conference record (they finished 8-16 this season) to earn a trip to the WCWS.
The 12-12 team in 2012 advanced to the Super Regionals, losing at Oklahoma in two games, and the 9-15 team in 2013 lost in the regional round with two losses to Baylor at the College Station (Texas A&M) Regional.
Arizona, in its third straight WCWS appearance, also increased the program’s remarkable unbeaten streak in the regional round and Super Regionals to 15 games dating to 2019.
“I believe that our pitching is feeding into our defense and our defense into our offense,” Arizona coach Caitlin Lowe said. “I think we’re pretty dangerous when that happens.”
Arizona’s defense has recorded 85 outs via the ground or flyouts (other than the 23 combined strikeouts by Bowen and Netz) this postseason and only one fielding error has occurred by right fielder Paige Dimler. That happened Saturday in the second inning against Mississippi State, allowing a baserunner to turn a single into a double.
The Wildcats’ fielding percentage in the postseason is .991 (108 putouts with one error). They are at .965 this season (1,085 putouts and 55 errors).
Caitlin Lowe yesterday said Arizona might stay in Starkville today but it’s off to OKC for another valuable extended stay. https://t.co/JtDMgwnFJO
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 29, 2022
The sound defense is becoming a staple of this group with Arizona setting a school record last year with only 25 errors while finishing with the second-best fielding percentage in program history (.981).
Arizona turned three double plays against Mississippi State in Saturday’s 7-1 victory after converting only 15 in the previous 57 games this season. In other words — three double plays in three consecutive innings occurred Saturday after Arizona turned only 15 in the 354 2/3 innings beforehand (about once every 24 innings).
“I would say it is extremely hard because this game is so quick,” Netz said when asked about the difficulty of turning double plays because of the limited 60 feet between bases. : We are moving at a fast pace to keep the ball moving around. The defense having three double plays in one game is phenomenal. I am so proud of our defense because they worked so hard all year long.”
Saturday’s double plays included shortstop Sophia Carroll to second baseman Allie Skaggs to first baseman Carlie Scupin twice and Netz to Carroll to Scupin once.
“You have to give a lot of credit to our middle infielders (Skaggs and Carroll),” Scupin said. “They make it look easy.”
ARIZONA’S IMPRESSIVE 15-0 RUN IN THE REGIONALS & SUPER REGIONALS
2019 Tucson Regional
(6) Arizona 5, Harvard 1
(6) Arizona 2, Auburn 1
(6) Arizona 12, Auburn 3
Tucson Super Regional
(6) Arizona 5, (11) Ole Miss 2
(6) Arizona 9, (11) Ole Miss 1
2020 postseason canceled (COVID-19)
2021 Tucson Regional
(11) Arizona 7, UMBC 0
(11) Arizona 12, Ole Miss 6
(11) Arizona 12, Ole Miss 6
Fayetteville Super Regional
(11) Arizona 10, (5) Arkansas 4
(11) Arizona 4, (5) Arkansas 1
2022 Columbia Regional
Arizona 8, Illinois 3
Arizona 2, (13) Missouri 0
Arizona 1, (13) Missouri 0
Starkville Super Regional
Arizona 3, Mississippi State 2 (8 innings)
Arizona 7, Mississippi State 1
Bowen and Netz have allowed 28 hits and 14 walks in the postseason along with one batter who was hit by a pitch from Bowen against Illinois in the opening round of the Columbia Regional. That means 43 batters have reached base yet only six runs have occurred against them.
Their resolve and Arizona’s defense have resulted in opponents leaving 34 runners on base in the postseason, 17 of whom were stranded in scoring position.
Bowen worked out of a bases-loaded jam without allowing a run against Missouri in her 2-0 win and against Mississippi State in a 3-2 win in eight innings.
Netz has allowed only one runner to advance to third base in her 14 innings in the postseason. That happened when Mississippi State scored its lone run Saturday in the second inning on Madysin Kennedy’s RBI single.
Bowen and Netz credited Arizona pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney, the Wildcats’ legendary pitcher who contributed to the 2006 and 2007 NCAA championship runs, for keeping them composed in what were high-pressure situations in front of capacity crowds at Missouri and Mississippi State.
Key words: calm down and breathe.
“She was coming out there to give me time,” Bowen said when asked about a visit by Mowatt-McKinney to the circle during a Mississippi State rally Friday that resulted in no runs. “She gave me time to think and to take the pressure off myself. I needed to do what I know how to do. I was telling myself one pitch at a time and to breathe, so that is what I did.”
Netz mentioned of Mowatt-McKinney: “What helps to calm me down is her coming out there to tell me to breathe. She tells me to focus on my catcher and the little things one pitch at a time. Every time she has come to the circle in the post-season, she has told me to just calm down and breathe. She says it will be okay and to just settle in.”
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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.