The historic streak is over for Arizona softball — after making the NCAA tournament 35 straight years, the Wildcats are staying home this postseason.
Arizona (29-25 overall and 6-18 in the Pac-12) was not one of the 64 teams announced as part of the field on Sunday during the Selection Show on ESPN2.
The last time Arizona was not in the NCAA tournament was in 1986, Mike Candrea’s first season as head coach. That was only the fifth year of the program’s existence.
“I know we’re gonna stick together no matter what,” Lowe said when asked about Arizona’s postseason chances after losing 4-3 in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals to top-seeded UCLA at Hillenbrand Stadium on Thursday.
Lowe’s team was on the bubble last season, made the tournament and then advanced to the Women’s College World Series.
Lowe is 68-47 in her two years after replacing Candrea.
The Wildcats’ greatest need next season without question is pitching.
Lowe and pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney will have to hit the transfer portal hard.
Their team ERA of 4.26 ranked last in the Pac-12 and is 215th overall among 295 NCAA Division I programs.
Arizona’s lineup was one of the best in the Pac-12, ranking second behind UCLA with a .329 team batting average. The Bruins. the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, top the Pac-12 with a .338 batting average.
Most of Arizona’s top batters are slated to return next season with fifth-year catcher Izzy Pacho (.281 with two home runs and 23 RBIs) the lone exception.
Three of the high school prospects signed in November are pitchers — left-hander Ryan Maddox of Fresno, Calif., right-hander Brooke Mannon of West Jefferson, Ohio, and left-hander Aissa Silva of Mountain View who reclassified and pitched for the Wildcats this year.
Silva was the second-most used pitcher by Lowe and Mowatt-McKinney this season at 54 innings. She was 2-3 with a 4.80 ERA.
Devyn Netz, a junior who was potent at the plate with 13 home runs, was the ace in the circle this season with a 16-16 record and 3.88 ERA. She had 135 strikeouts and 40 walks.
Netz allowed 26 home runs. Arizona’s staff gave up 67 home runs overall, which by far was the worst in the Pac-12. Utah was next at 41.
All-Pac-12 first-team selections Allie Skaggs, a junior second baseman, and Dakota Kennedy, a freshman left fielder, are slated to be back.
Skaggs, the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, did not commit an error in 168 chances this season and produced a team-high 14 home runs and 64 RBIs.
Kennedy batted .356 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs and led the Wildcats with nine stolen bases.
Catcher Olivia DiNardo and outfielder Tayler Biehl were also All-Freshman team selections in the Pac-12. DiNardo batted .382 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs. Biehl batted .295 with six stolen bases.
Slugger Carlie Scupin, out six weeks this season with a broken left forearm, will be a senior next season.
Despite her prolonged absence, she finished with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs while batting .337.
NCAA tournament selection committee chairperson Kelly Gatwood told ESPN: “We don’t necessarily know all the information about injuries. We just try to keep our focus on the teams.”
Carlie Scupin out six weeks with broken forearm detrimental to UA’s season/hopes for postseason.
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 14, 2023
Outfielders Jasmine Perezchica (.361) and Paige Dimler (.282 with five home runs and 20 RBIs) also have eligibility remaining. Perezchica will be a senior next season and Dimler a junior.
Salpointe graduate Logan Cole started 15 games as a freshman this season at shortstop after Sophia Carroll was no longer listed on the Wildcats’ roster midway through the season. Cole had only one error in 49 chances for a fielding percentage of .980.
Arizona’s second-leading batter Blaise Biringer, the Cienega grad who batted .365 with 32 RBIs, will be a senior next season.
The other two incoming freshmen are utility player Regan Shockey of Chino Hills, Calif., and CDO outfielder Zaedi Tagalog.
If Arizona can keep its roster intact, especially its veterans, the Wildcats’ lineup should again be one of the best in the Pac-12 next year. The senior group of Biringer, Scupin, Skaggs, Perezchica and Netz in the lineup is a talented core to build around.
It will all come down to pitching.
Who will the Wildcats attract? Who will step up to be a factor in the circle next season?
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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.