No. 1 seed UCLA scored four runs off three home runs to defeat No. 8 seed Arizona 4-3 on Thursday evening at Hillenbrand Stadium.
The Wildcats now wait until Sunday to see if they are selected to the NCAA tournament.
They face a real possibility of missing out on the postseason for the first time in 36 years, since legendary Arizona coach Mike Candrea‘s first season in 1986.
But Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel on the season.
“I would have been iffy before today and or before this week and I don’t know. The reason why we decided to have this tournament (Pac-12 Tournament) was for teams like for the opportunity to showcase why we deserve to keep playing and in the middle of conference, this team could have folded and just gone a different direction and they chose to fight they chose to fight every single day,” she said. “…I thought they played in a special way today. They expected to win against the number two team in the country and they sold out for it, and I feel good going into Sunday with my squad. I know we’re gonna stick together no matter what, but I believe they have more games to play and their best softball is being played.”
Two-time Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Faraimo took the circle for UCLA in the top of the first inning and retired the side in a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.
Devyn Netz started the game for Arizona allowing a leadoff single to Megan Grant before getting out of the first inning, stranding Grant on second.
With two outs in the top of the second, Blaise Biringer gave the Wildcats a spark with a single to left field. Izzy Pacho followed the at-bat with a bloop single to center field that advanced Biringer to third.
UCLA second baseman Anna Vines was injured on the play when she ran into the umpire, leading to a big shakeup in the Bruins’ infield.
Arizona then got on the scoreboard first when Kaiah Altmeyer doubled to right center, scoring Biringer to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. Arizona stranded two runners after Logan Cole grounded out to shortstop.
Netz continued a solid afternoon in the circle by striking out the side in the bottom of the second.
Dakota Kennedy hit a leadoff double to center field to start the third inning. Faraimo hit Olivia DiNardo by a pitch with one out in the inning.
Then Netz gave herself an insurance run with a stand-up double that scored Kennedy to extend Arizona’s lead to 2-0. Faraimo walked the next batter Allie Skaggs to load the bases before she recovered by striking out Biringer to record the second out.
Pacho flied out to left field, stranding three Arizona runners aboard.
Then it was UCLA’s turn to strike.
With two outs in the bottom of the third, Maya Brady hit a two-run home run to right center to tie the game at 2.
An All-Tucson Infield. 1: Devyn Netz 2: Izzy Pacho 3: Carlie Scupin 4: Allie Skaggs 5 Blaise Biringer 6: Logan Cole https://t.co/N9FlZx8k1K pic.twitter.com/FRXVFr73dM
— Andy Morales (@AndyMorales8) May 12, 2023
Arizona got back on top with two outs in the top of the fifth when Skaggs hit an RBI single to center field, scoring Tayler Biehl, who pinch-ran for Scupin after a walk, to put the Wildcats up 3-2. Biringer followed her with a single, but the top of the inning ended when Pacho flew out to right field.
The Arizona lead didn’t last long.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Grant hit a towering solo home run to center to tie the game up at 3-3. Brady followed Grant with a back-to-back home run to right center to give the Bruins their first lead of the game at 4-3.
“It’s hard not to think I competed my ass off for this team, but also kind of lost the game for us as well,” Netz said. “But, this sport is a game of failure, and I wouldn’t change anything that I did, or any pitch I chose to throw in those at bats when I faced those hitters. If you asked me, and I looked at myself in the mirror. I gave it my all, and sometimes it just doesn’t go your way, and that’s alright. Now at least I can say I give it all for my seniors.”
The Wildcats couldn’t recover at the plate, and the Bruins would hold on to win.
Whether Arizona makes the NCAA tournament or not, fifth-year redshirt senior Pacho will look back upon this season favorably for the relationships she built with teammates off the field.
“I love this team,” she said. “I think we all know I’ve gotten through some things this year. I think this team has showed me what it means to feel love outside of your sport, and that’s something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before.
“It was always softball softball, softball. So whether we make it or not. When I look back 20 years from now, I’m gonna still be talking to each and every one of them.”
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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.