Arizona lost a much-needed game in terms of conference tournament placement, losing 8-6 to California on Friday evening at Hillenbrand Stadium.
The loss, paired with an Arizona State win over Oregon State on Friday, moved Arizona back to eighth place in the Pac-12 standings.
The top seven teams in regular season conference standings avoid the opening round play-in game. Arizona now has to win the last two games of the series against Cal, and hope Arizona State loses one of its two remaining games to avoid the play-in game.
Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe thinks the team was resilient in the loss and has to come out with the same mentality in Game Two against Cal on Saturday.
The Wildcats (27-23, 5-17 Pac 12) plays the Golden Bears (32-17-1, 8-13-1 Pac 12) at 6 p.m.
PAC-12 SOFTBALL STANDINGSThrough games of May 5
* Stanford 2-1 vs. Oregon & 1-0 vs. Washington
** Washington 2-1 vs. Oregon
“Honestly, they came out on fire today and I couldn’t be more proud of the prep and the sustained effort no matter what happened,” she said. “They have to come out in the exact same way, and realize they faced three of their (Cal’s) pitchers already. So they’re just looking forward to the next one they face and getting after it and then executing.”
With Devyn Netz in the circle for Arizona, and the game tied at 5-5, Cal got two runners on base with two outs in the top of the sixth inning.
Then Kennedy Thomas hit a two-RBI triple to centerfield and regained the lead for the Golden Bears at 7-5. Diamond Holland followed her and extended the lead for Cal to 8-5 when she hit an RBI single to shortstop, scoring Thomas.
“I thought just the sixth inning,” Lowe said. “If we could have that back, but then she (Netz) executed in the seventh against some really good hitters, so we just have to figure out a way to put more runs on the board, or execute and that sixth inning.”
Aissa Silva got the start in the circle for the Wildcats, and after retiring the first two hitters, she walked Makena Smith on four balls.
Then Arizona’s inconsistency from the circle that has plagued the team much of the season reared its ugly head again.
Cal cleanup hitter Elon Butler belted a home run to left centerfield to give the Golden Bears a 2-0 lead. Silva got out of the inning, but not before Sydney Somerndike started getting loose in the bullpen.
Jasmine Perezchica started the bottom of the first for Arizona with a leadoff walk. Dakota Kennedy then got on base with a fielder’s choice. Carlie Scupin would double to left centerfield to score Kennedy and cut the Cal lead to 2-1.
With two outs, Cal pitcher Haylei Archer hit Allie Skaggs with a pitch to put runners on first and third base. Netz reached on a fielder’s choice, advancing Skaggs to second on a muffed throw by Cal second baseman Butler, scoring Scupin to tie the game at 2.
Silva continued from the circle in the top of the second, and after a bit of a shaky start, she got out of the inning, stranding Thomas on second to regain some confidence.
With two outs in the top of the third, the Arizona coaching staff opted to bring in Netz for Silva, and she quickly got out of the half inning after Smith grounded out back to the circle.
Scupin had a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning. Then Olivia DiNardo homered to left field to give the Wildcats a 4-2 lead.
Cal brought in Anna Reimers to relieve Archer in the circle to begin the bottom of the fourth. After retiring two Arizona batters, Reimers walked Kennedy and Scupin before Cal recorded the third out when DiNardo grounded out to first base.
Cal rallied in the top of the fifth. Mika Lee was hit by a pitch to lead of the inning, and with one out, Diamond Holland singled to Netz. Then a two-out three-run home run for Acacia Anders gave the Golden Bears a 5-4 lead.
It didn’t take long for Arizona to respond. Skaggs hit a leadoff solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game at 5-5.
Netz followed Skaggs with a single up the middle. Blaise Biringer advanced pinch-runner Ali Blanchard to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Then Izzy Pacho hit a deep line drive caught at the warning track by Thomas, advancing Blanchard to third base. Ashanti McDade came in to relieve Reimers, closing out the inning when Logan Cole grounded out to third base.
Arizona made its last stand in the bottom of the seventh.
After a leadoff walk by Skaggs, Netz popped out to McDade. Then Biringer singled to left field, advancing Skaggs to second base. Pacho followed Biringer with a clutch RBI single, scoring Skaggs, but, in the end, it wasn’t enough.
Allie Ashner grounded into a double play to end the game.
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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.