Arizona came back from an early four-run deficit to run-rule Arizona State 13-4 in five innings in the Pac-12 Tournament play-in game on Wednesday evening at Hillenbrand Stadium.
But it didn’t look pretty early.
Arizona’s start to the game on Wednesday evening was a microcosm of a regular season marred with pitching issues.
Devyn Netz started the game for Arizona from the circle by walking Makenna Harper and hitting Yannira Acuna with a pitch to put two runners aboard. She followed up the shaky start by striking out Jazmyn Rollin and Jordyn Vanhook.
Then Alexa Milius singled to load the bases before Jazmine Hill cleared the bases with a grand slam to put the Sun Devils up 4-0. Netz struck out Kayla Lissy to close out the top of the first.
Despite the disappointing start, Arizona wasn’t about to lie down and give up on the season.
Allie Skaggs started the bottom of the second off by singling through the middle. Then Arizona State starting pitcher Kylee Magee walked Blaise Biringer and Izzy Pacho to load the bases. Logan Cole hit a fielder’s choice with one out, scoring Skaggs.
Then, with two outs in the inning, Carlie Scupin came up big with a 3-RBI double to left center that tied the game at 4-4.
“I mean she’s a presence of force. I think all of our spirits get better when she’s around and she’s in the lineup on the field,” Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said of Scupin’s performance on Wednesday evening. “I was really proud of her tonight with her hitting with two strikes because usually she’s not as comfortable in that situation, and she took hacks with two strikes and really just played the game and went to work and found a lot of good stuff off and took a lot of good takes to get to those positions. She wanted those moments, and she got them.”
Arizona State threatened to take the lead back in the fourth inning.
After Savannah Price reached base on a fielder’s choice to begin the top of the fourth, Kayla Lissy hit a single. With two outs, Harper singled up the middle before Acuna singled to right field. Then it was Arizona right fielder Tayler Biehl with a laser to Pacho at home plate, who tagged out Savannah Price to close out the top of the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth and Cole on second, it was Scupin to the rescue again. She hit an RBI double to left center, scoring Cole to put the Wildcats up 5-4.
In the bottom of the fifth, Magee hit Skaggs with a pitch to lead off the inning. Biringer followed her up by singling down the left field line. With one out, Kaiah Altmeyer singled up the middle, scoring Biringer to extend the lead to 6-4 and prompt a pitching change for Arizona State.
Kenzie Brown finished the inning off in the circle for Arizona State.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Scupin came up clutch again with an RBI single up the middle, scoring Altmeyer and extending the Wildcats’ lead to 7-4.
Scupin credited the defense for her clutch performance on Wednesday evening.
“I try my best, but honestly tonight, I feel like we had so much momentum from our defense that it really carried us into the offense,” she said. ” With the bases loaded, I’m really just trying to put the ball in play, and I think that we just had a ton of momentum from the defense, and I think we all felt that at the plate.”
Brown would hit Olivia DiNardo and Netz with pitches on the following two bases-loaded at-bats to score Cole and Kennedy and extend the Arizona lead to 9-4.
Then it was Skaggs with the game’s biggest hit: a walk-off grand slam to end the game at 13-4.
She was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the day, but it was her offense that she was most proud of during the game.
“That’s one thing I’ve been kind of waiting for,” Skaggs said. “I mean those moments are what we play for, right? I’m obviously very proud of my defense but the offense hasn’t gone away either, so that was one of my favorite moments here so far.”
Skaggs thinks the team is on a roll at the perfect time heading into a matchup against UCLA tomorrow.
“We’ve seen with this team in the past that we can get hot at the right time, and I think that tonight just propels us straight into it. Yes, it’s great to beat our rival, but UCLA, there at the same level as ASU for us,” she said. We want to beat them just as bad, and being able to take tonight — obviously a play-in game is not ideal — but being able to get an extra game under our belt and that type of game with that much momentum, it means a lot to our team, and that is going to fuel us going into the rest of the weekend.”
Netz (16-15) registered the win in five innings, allowing six hits and four earned runs with eight strikeouts.
Arizona (29-24) plays No. 1 seed UCLA (50-4) tomorrow at 4 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament at Hillenbrand Stadium.
FOLLOW @KEVINMURFEE ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.