Southern Arizona high school products Carlie Scupin and Blaise Biringer produced hits that provided the runs the Wildcats needed Friday night in the sixth inning as Caitlin Lowe’s team kept its magical postseason run alive.
Devyn Netz and Hanah Bowen also combined on a three-hitter in the 3-1 win for the Wildcats over Pac-12 rival Oregon State in the elimination-bracket game of the Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City.
Arizona (39-21) advances to play Sunday at 4 p.m. against the loser of the Texas-Oklahoma game that will be played Saturday at noon.
— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) June 4, 2022
After Izzy Pacho (Ironwood Ridge graduate) walked to lead off the sixth, pinch-runner Amber Toven replaced her. Scupin (Tucson High) followed with a double to center field to score Toven from first base and give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.
Scupin was 0-for-11 with eight strikeouts against Oregon State ace Mariah Mazon (17-12) in her career before finishing 3 for 3 against her Friday night.
“I think we prepared a lot just because we saw her a lot during conference play,” Scupin said. “We all kind of knew the gameplan going in but I think it was just a matter of executing.”
— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) June 4, 2022
Biringer (Cienega) then hit a single down the right field line with one out to score pinch-runner Giulia Koutsoyanopulos (who replaced Scupin at second) to increase the lead to 3-1.
Biringer was 2 for 11 in her previous five postseason games.
“I was telling Shar (Sharlize Palacios) that I almost cried when Blaise got the hit to score the third run,” said Scupin, who added that she is “super proud” of Biringer and improving batter Sophia Carroll.
Carroll, who was in an 0 for 14 postseason slump before hitting a single off Oklahoma State ace Kelly Maxwell on Thursday, continued her breakthrough with an RBI double against Mazon in the second inning. She later almost hit a home run to left field but the ball went slightly foul over the wall.
Scupin, Biringer and Carroll overcame personal struggles to provide the big hits for Lowe against Oregon State — a sign of a team putting everything together at the right time.
“Soph works her butt off every single day and any good contact on a base hit, she’s the happiest person in the world,” Lowe said of Carroll, whose 2-for-6 performance in the two WCWS games has her average at .203. “And you know what? She’s even happier for a great sacrifice and that’s just a good teammate, so she deserves all of it.”
Lowe, who earned her first WCWS victory as a head coach, added about Biringer: “Blaise hasn’t felt great but she found a way and found a way to bloop something in so we could score a run. I’m very excited about how they’ve kind of stayed the course throughout the season.”
The most-discussed topic in Oklahoma City on Friday before the game was whether Oregon State would be with Mazon, who did not play in Thursday’s loss to Florida for an undisclosed reason at the time. She mentioned in Friday’s postgame press conference that she was not feeling well and was advised by Oregon State’s staff to remain at the team hotel.
Mazon arrived at the stadium in uniform Friday. The cat-and-mouse game between Oregon State coach Laura Berg and Arizona’s Caitlin Lowe — former Team USA teammates in the outfield — included Mazon penciled in as the designated player minutes before the game.
That changed by game time with Mazon starting in the circle.
These two 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/RJ0GNUK0pR
— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) June 4, 2022
Lowe and pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney brought some drama to the circle in the sixth inning replacing a cruising and confident Netz with Bowen.
Netz allowed only three hits in five innings with four strikeouts and one walk. She was relieved after retiring eight straight batters and 11 of the last 12 she faced with the game tied at 1.
“I think it was just a different look,” said Netz, who is more effective throwing low in the strike zone while Bowen has a more effective rise pitch. “Bo coming in was super helpful because it’s just a different eye level and then changing levels (of pitches).”
Bowen (14-11) kept the momentum going for Netz. She retired all three batters she faced in the sixth. In the seventh, Bowen persevered through two walks to close out the Beavers.
“Like Devyn said, it was just a different look,” Bowen said of the pitching change. “She was throwing more down, more off-speed. I was throwing more up. It was just a different look for everybody.”
Lowe mentioned she felt it was a right time to make the change for both pitchers. Although Netz was unhittable in the last three innings, six of the last eight batters she faced made contact with four groundouts and two fly outs to the outfield.
“I think they were starting to hit some balls hard and our defense was doing a great job,” Lowe explained for relieving Netz. “Bo comes in and she provides a different look, just a different eye level. Anytime you can do that, as a hitter, you have to make the adjustment to execute.
“I thought it was just a good time for Bo to come in fresh and Devyn to go out on a high note, too.”
Netz got off to a promising start, retiring the side in the first inning, including two strikeouts, but she ran into trouble in the second inning.
Frankie Hammoude reached on an infield single in which Carroll at shortstop made a diving stop but couldn’t make a throw in time to first base. Kaylah Nelsen followed with a single up the middle, moving Hammoude to second base.
After pinch-runner Kristalyn Romulo replaced Hammoude, Romulo went to third and Nelsen to second on a sacrifice bunt by Grace Messmer.
Romulo then scored on a sacrifice fly to left field on an 0-2 count by Madison Simon to give Oregon State a 1-0 lead.
Arizona answered in the bottom of the second inning after Scupin started the rally with a leadoff single.
Biringer hit into a fielder’s choice groundout with Scupin thrown out at second base for the second out before Carroll blooped a double to right field that scored Biringer from first base to tie the game.
The timely hits from Scupin, Biringer and Carroll, the spectacular defensive plays by Carroll, right fielder Paige Dimler and left fielder Jasmine Perezchica, along with the dominating pitching of Netz and Bowen are elements Lowe always talks about concerning winning softball that she learned from her mentor Mike Candrea — pitching, defense and timely hitting.
On top of that, is the strong team concept Arizona has developed in its magical postseason run.
No better example of that than when Netz was one of the first out of the dugout to greet Bowen after Bowen retired the side in the sixth. She could have sulked that she was taken out but Netz became one of Bowen’s biggest supporters.
“It’s what you live for. It’s what makes the game so great when you have that joy for your teammates,” Lowe said. “You kind of come full circle and you get it, you get how to play the game the right way.
“I think that’s so important.”
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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.