Arizona held off California, beating the Golden Bears 9-4 in the final game of the regular season to secure eighth place in the Pac-12 regular season standings on Sunday afternoon at Hillenbrand Stadium.
The Wildcats (28-24, 6-18 Pac-12) will face off against ninth-place Arizona State in the conference tournament play-in game at 6 p.m. Tucson time on Wednesday evening at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe is optimistic that the Wildcats will use the momentum from Sunday’s win over Cal in that play-in game and hopefully beyond, especially with the support of the Arizona faithful in the stands cheering the team on.
“I think the cool thing about the conference tournament is you face everybody. There’s no surprises,” she said. “We’ve always done better the third time that we see pitching, so now our freshman have seen it, and that’s the biggest thing. They play a key role in our offense, and a key role in our defense. So now it’s what we do with that information. Firing up this crowd will be huge too, because they’ve stuck with us the entire season, and I can’t say enough about them.”
After the postgame senior day ceremony ended, redshirt senior Izzy Pacho was overcome with emotion and gratitude when reflecting on her five seasons with the Wildcats.
“It has been a long five years, but man, I owe so much to this program and to coach Cait (Caitlin Lowe). They just have given me so many opportunities, and this team this year, they’re forever going to be my people,” she said fighting back tears. “They just they make me so happy, and they love me for Izzy Pacho not for number 15, and that that’s all a softball player can ask for.”
Pacho thanked the Arizona fans who have supported her throughout her career as a Wildcat, especially after a 2023 regular season in which she took a break for personal reasons.
“I cannot thank the fans enough. When I came back from my mental health break, and I think I got a walk. I was coming off the field because I got a base runner (pinch runner), and I looked up, and everyone was standing up, and I opened my ears, and all I could hear was the crowd roaring, and honestly, I cried in the dugout,” she said. “The love that these fans have shown me these five years, whether I was on the field or not, it just goes to show how special Tucson is and why I’m so proud to be here.”
Arizona was up 3-1 in the bottom of the third inning when the Wildcats took control of the game.
Blaise Birringer reached first base on a fielding error with one out, and Pacho followed her with a walk before Annabel Teperson replaced Archer for Cal in the circle.
Teperson walked Kaiah Altmeyer to load the bases, setting up a two-RBI single from Logan Cole through the middle to extend the Wildcats lead to 5-1.
Then Dakota Kennedy came up a big, crushing a three-run homer to center field to put the Wildcats up 8-1. But Arizona’s scoring explosion wasn’t over. Carlie Scupin hit a solo home run to right field to put the Wildcats up 9-1.
“I think they (Arizona players) wanted to feel like they had control of something, and I think that was the biggest thing,” Lowe said. “It just didn’t matter how many they (Cal) put up on the board. They knew that if we played our game, that we could beat them, honestly, by as many runs as we could put up, and that’s what it felt like in that third inning. It was just going right at people, and Devyn (Devyn Netz) fed off of that, and I thought today she played the game regardless of what score was, and that was the biggest thing.”
Cal wasn’t ready to give up without a fight after the eruption of offense from the Wildcats.
Sona Halajian hit a leadoff solo home run to start the top of the fourth to cut Arizona’s lead to 9-3, and Kennedy Thomas followed it up with a single down the right field line. Mika Lee would then reach base on a fielding error before Diamond Holland grounded out, scoring Thomas. Tatum Anzaldo then singled to shortstop, scoring Lee to cut the lead to 9-4.
Cal would strand one runner heading into the bottom of the inning.
Arizona remained up 9-4 until the top of the seventh when Cal’s D’auna Johnson hit a leadoff single to third base. After Netz (15-15) struck out Butler swinging, Pacho threw out Johnson at first to record two outs. Netz walked Kacey Zobac, before striking out Halajian for the 9-4 win.
She allowed 10 hits, three earned runs, adding six strikeouts in a complete game performance.
Acacia Anders hit a single through the left side with one out in the top of the first to get things started for Cal. Then it was Makena Smith with a walk before Elon Butler hit an RBI single to center field, scoring Anders to give Cal an early 1-0 lead.
Netz walked Sona Halajian with two outs to load the bases but got herself out of a jam when Kennedy Thomas popped out to shallow center to end the top half.
Kennedy started the bottom of the first off with a leadoff walk. Scupin followed the walk with an RBI single through the right side, scoring Kennedy to tie the game at 1-1. After Allie Skaggs struck out swinging, Olivia DiNardo singled through the left side to put two runners on base.
The Wildcats eventually stranded those two runners to close out the first inning.
Haylei Archer took over Ashanti McDade in the circle to begin the bottom of the second inning for Cal (33-17-1, 9-13-1 Pac-12) , allowing a leadoff walk to Pacho. Altmeyer followed Pacho with a single through the middle, and Cole singled to load the bases with no outs.
Kennedy then singled to shortstop to bring in Pacho and give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead. Scupin added another run for the Wildcats with a bloop RBI fielder’s choice to shallow left field, scoring Altmeyer to extend the Arizona lead to 3-1.
Cal would retire the side to get out of the second inning, stranding two Arizona runners aboard.
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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.