Allie Skaggs can become the No. 1 home run hitter in the Pac-12 if she belts another one during the Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City, a chase with Washington’s Baylee Klingler she is amused by.
Both have 24 home runs and Klingler’s season is over with the Huskies eliminated by Texas in the Seattle Regional two weeks ago.
“I will say Baylee Klingler, she’s my favorite player, and so it was cracking me up when she would go ahead one and then I would catch up to her and then I’d go up, then she would catch up to me,” Skaggs said during a press conference Wednesday at Oklahoma City. “So a little cat and mouse chase but I think it’s awesome and I’m super honored to be on that list was such great hitters.”
Arizona opens the WCWS against No. 7 Oklahoma State on Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Tucson time, on ESPN.
Among the top five home run hitters are teammates Carlie Scupin and Sharlize Palacios — each with 19. Arizona State’s Cydney Sanders finished with 21.
Skaggs’ impressive performance in her first full season with the Wildcats earned her All-American status by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), which awarded her a second-team at-large second baseman. She is Arizona’s 110th All-American honor in school history.
Skaggs, a sophomore who ranks fourth in the NCAA with 24 home runs, also leads Arizona in hits (63) and slugging percentage (.818) and is second with 58 RBIs.
She made history when she tied a program record hitting three home runs in a single game against UTEP, joining Wildcat legends Jenny Dalton, Katiyana Mauga and Stacie Chambers.
Always unassuming, Skaggs is not consumed by the home run totals. She said she did not believe she would challenge for the Pac-12 home-run lead.
“I got a decent number of at-bats (last year), but coming in to this (season), I kind of call it my freshman season — I feel like it’s my first full one — I’m still kind of figuring it out just like the rest of us,” said Skaggs, a 2020 Ironwood Ridge graduate. “I knew I had it in me, but I’ve never been the type of player to expect that type of thing.
“I feel like it just happens, and I’m not taking anything for granted.”
Arizona coach Caitlin Lowe, sitting next to Skaggs on the press conference podium, looked at her and told the media about Skaggs vying for the Pac-12 home run lead: “I don’t think the rest of us are surprised by it at all. She’s being humble right now.”
“When you watch her come to work every single day and do what she does — she’s just steady,” Lowe said. “She’s always been consistent for us, and I’m not talking about games. I’m talking about every day at practice, any workout.
“Good things happen to those people that put the work in every day and have a great attitude and they’re great teammates. Honestly, in the limited time she got (last year), she hit five home runs, and to me that’s not surprising at all that she could come in in uncomfortable situations with less reps and still hit five bombs in really crucial situations against very good pitching. It’s not surprising at all, and now that she has this full season, full body of work, she’s just going to continue to get better.”
ELISH SISTER REUNION
Arizona freshman pitcher Madi Elish will be opposite Oklahoma State graduate transfer Miranda Elish, a pitcher/utility player, when the Wildcats play Cowgirls on Thursday.
Miranda is batting .351 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs and is 13-4 with a 2.09 ERA with 128 strikeouts and 33 walks.
Chances are the sisters will not be on the same field when the teams play because Madi has not pitched in the postseason because Hanah Bowen and Devyn Netz have combined for five complete-game victories to get the Wildcats to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma State is expected to start Kelly Maxwell (19-4, 1.16 ERA) against Bowen (13-10, 3.67) on Thursday.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” Lowe said about Elish sisters being in opposite dugouts. “I think they got to see each other last night at the banquet and take some pictures, and then it’s less about softball and more about family. I think it’s cool.
“I actually played my sister at the World Series (in 2006 when Paige Lowe played for Oregon State), and it was more rough for the parents. I think that’s where it’s going to be interesting, to see how her parents do in the crowd. It’s exciting. They’re both at the top level of their game. That’s just so cool to see a family go through that. They must be really proud, and they’re probably going to have a lot of anxiety to go with it.”
LOWE, STAFF PUT PUZZLE TOGETHER
Lowe said viewing Arizona’s Instagram page with her players celebrating the WCWS berth got her to thinking.
“I just sat in my room, and I was like, ‘We’re a puzzle. We’re a bunch of puzzle pieces.’ That’s what we were at the beginning of the year,” Lowe said reflecting on Arizona’s 0-8 start in the Pac-12. “We were a bunch of really good puzzle pieces, and we saw it in the fall. We just knew we had to put the pieces together. The pitching, the defense, and the hitting together.
“I think for the last five games you’ve seen all of it. You’ve seen us win games that we’ve shut really good teams out and been able to score the one run when it counted, in games when we’ve turned double plays to help us get momentum into the offense. I think that’s been the key for us is we saw in practice what we could be, and then being able to put it all together.”
Bowen’s postseason stats in three complete-game victories: 22 innings, 21 hits, five runs (all earned), nine walks and 18 strikeouts. Her ERA in those three wins over Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi State is 1.59.
What has occurred that enhanced her effectiveness especially in pressure situations on the road against Missouri and Mississippi State in front of capacity crowds?
“In all honesty, I think it’s just the time is right right now,” Bowen said. “I’m just going out there like I always do and command and attack the zone. I’m just here to win. I felt like right now everything is starting to click as a whole not only for myself, but with this team. We’re just ready to go.”
Arizona’s defense behind Bowen and Netz has turned more double plays (three) than errors (one) committed in the postseason. Its fielding percentage is .991.
Palacios, Arizona’s catcher, said Bowen and Netz “had it in them the whole time” to have the stellar performances.
“It’s just a matter of when they were bringing it out, and they brought it out at the perfect time,” Palacios said. “I love catching our pitching staff. They’re great competitors, and they do an amazing job. I think just what Hanah said is just trusting and commanding the zone and competing out there.
“I think that’s what we did as a whole entire team, and it’s really fun catching them now in the postseason. It’s always been fun, but even elevated to that. They’ve been doing an amazing job, and I’m really proud of them.”
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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.