NCAA Softball Tournament: Arizona’s pitching staff proves it’s up to the task against Arkansas (2024)

Being able to win in different ways is a huge advantage for any team. On Friday evening, Arizona won going away in a 14-3 blowout against Villanova in five innings. On Saturday afternoon, it was a pitchers’ duel against the home team and No. 12 national seed Arkansas. The Wildcats emerged victorious by the score of 2-1.

“I think both are great games,” said Arizona sophom*ore pitcher Aissa Silva. “To be able to have a quick game yesterday was great and amazing. It gave us more rest for today. But I also have complete confidence in knowing that if it’s a tight game with this team, that we’re going to stay on top, and if we do end up falling behind we always know that we’re going to come back up and do whatever we can. I have complete trust in all of these girls that they’re going to do whatever they can for me, so I’m going to do whatever I can for them.”

Given the nature of postseason play, Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe was more impressed by the close win than the run-rule win.

“I think the tight games breed more confidence because it’s a mental grind as well as a physical grind,” Lowe said. “And that’s what I was proud of the team for today. They were locked in for every single moment. Responding after a very big home run in the seventh inning, and I think that’s huge. They weren’t deflated, they put their shoulders back and they competed...You want to be in those pressure moments and figure out ways to win, and I love that Brooke was in a pressure moment. I love that Aissa was in a pressure moment and they found their way on top.”

Arizona jumped on Arkansas starter Robyn Herron in the first inning. It wasn’t due to big hits but an eye for the strike zone. The Wildcats drew three walks. A sacrifice fly by Olivia DiNardo and an RBI single by Blaise Biringer put two runs on the board.

It was a big hit for Biringer. She came through with a hit and at least one RBI for the second straight day. The career .313 hitter had been in a bit of a slump without a hit since April 21 against Arizona State. She had just two RBI and one walk in almost a month, but the senior has found a way to get back on track when it matters the most.

It didn’t just happen in the moment, though. It took work and mental toughness throughout that month.

“Just chipping away every at-bat and learning more and more about myself and ways that I can be better each and every at-bat,” Biringer said. “And just coming up yesterday with the hit was a really good feeling. And realizing that I am good and my training is gonna pay off sooner or later.”

The Wildcats had several chances to put additional runs on the board, but they ran themselves out of two innings. Biringer was caught stealing with Emily Schepp at the plate to end the top of the first. It was the second time in the past three games Arizona has ended an inning after a runner was caught stealing at second base.

The team also ran itself out of the fifth inning although there was not an official caught stealing. Kaiah Altmeyer reached base on an Arkansas error and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. She moved to third on a groundout by Dakota Kennedy, giving Arizona a prime opportunity to add an insurance run with just one out.

Regan Shockey put the ball in play. Altmeyer was running on contact, but she didn’t slide. Arkansas shortstop Spencer Prigge went home and catcher Kennedy Miller applied the tag. Miller then threw the ball to second to get Shockey, who had been trying to advance.

Initially, Altmeyer was ruled safe to increase Arizona’s lead to 3-0, but a review of the play showed that she was clearly out. The throw to second turned into an inning-ending double play.

While aggressive baserunning can speed up the opposing defense and sometimes force them into errors, Lowe didn’t see much positive about Arizona’s baserunning.

“We made some tough decisions in the game today that I think we’re going to clean up for tomorrow,” Lowe said. “Because obviously we want to be aggressive, but at the same time we kind of have to know who’s coming up in the order behind us. So, a couple of those I’m okay with, and then some of them we just need to remember that we trust the hitters, as well.”

Arizona Wildcats (37-16-1, 13-11 Pac-12) vs TBD

When: Sunday, May 19 at 1 p.m. MST

Where: Bogle Park in Fayetteville, Ark.

TV/Streaming: TBD

Arizona will face the winner of Game 5 between Arkansas and either Southeast Missouri State or Villanova. That game is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m. MST.

The 2-0 first-inning lead held up the rest of the way due to a strong effort from the Arizona pitching staff.

Aissa Silva got it started. In her initial appearance, she pitched 2 13 innings giving up a single, two walks, and a hit batter. Arkansas couldn’t do anything with the four baserunners, though.

Freshman Brooke Mannon relieved Silva in the third inning. Despite having a difficult outing against Villanova on Friday, Lowe thought it was important to get Mannon back in the circle quickly.

Mannon rose to the occasion. She pitched 3 23 innings, giving up one earned run on one hit and a walk. She struck out three and picked up the win to improve to 7-3 on the season.

“I thought the coolest thing was her response from yesterday,” Lowe said. “I mean, that’s huge against a very good-hitting team. She came out with a lot of confidence and had her stuff working.”

Mannon gave up the Razorbacks’ lone run on a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Silva came back in to finish the game and secure her third save of the season.

The pair allowed one earned run on three hits and three walks. They struck out seven.

Arizona’s pitchers have learned how to work together as a staff in a way that is far from conventional. There has been just one complete game thrown by a Wildcat pitcher this season. That came from Silva against Oregon State on Mar. 9.

The philosophy has worked for the staff more often than not. Trusting each other has been a big part of that. It enables them to help each other through the tough times, like helping Mannon get over her last appearance so she could come out strong on Saturday.

“Knowing the person you’re talking to is very important,” Silva said. “So just being vocal with Brooke is very important. And just knowing that...kind of giving her that confidence that she knows that she has, just giving it a little boost and be by her side the entire time.”

On Saturday, Arizona’s pitchers put the team in the position to dismiss an SEC team on the road for the fourth straight time in the postseason. The Wildcats will get that chance on Sunday if Arkansas wins Game 5 on Saturday evening.

NCAA Softball Tournament: Arizona’s pitching staff proves it’s up to the task against Arkansas (2024)
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