Arizona softball has a new ace and her name is Hanah Bowen.
Two days after making her first-ever series-opening start, Bowen got the nod again in the series finale against Utah and did enough to solidify herself as the Wildcats’ go-to arm.
The junior right-hander went the distance in Sunday’s 3-2 win as No. 10 Arizona completed the four-game sweep. Bowen scattered six hits and two walks while striking out three.
“She’s really trying to attack the first pitch and get ahead of hitters, and the thing I love about her right now is her game has progressed because she can throw it on four different planes,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “She’s got a pretty good rise ball, she can throw the ball down in the zone, can throw it sideways and she’s got a good changeup. So she’s got a lot of weapons and it’s really hard for hitters to sit on one thing or one zone.”
With the win, the Wildcats improved to 30-8 overall and 8-5 in the Pac-12 heading into another home series vs. Cal. Bowen, who also plays second base from time to time, lowered her ERA to 1.51, the best mark among UA pitchers who have logged at least 20 innings.
“I think what you’re seeing right now is just a lot of hard work and a kid that’s really dedicated to the game and plays the game with a lot of passion,” Candrea said. “And not just plays the game with a lot of passion, but throughout the week works with a lot of passion. That’s a sign of a special player.”
Bowen kept the Wildcats in it while their offense scuffled for the first time in the series. A game-tying RBI single by Carlie Scupin in the third, a go-ahead RBI groundout by Reyna Carranco in the fifth and an RBI double by Dejah Mulipola later in the frame were Arizona’s only run-scoring plays.
Bowen wasn’t perfect, but she was resilient. She pitched five scoreless frames after serving up a solo homer in the first inning, then retired six straight after giving up a leadoff triple and sacrifice fly in the sixth.
“I thought she did a really good job of battling back and the thing that’s nice about her is if you watch her in the circle, she’s very active, very connected to her defense,” Candrea said.
Arizona turned two key double plays, none bigger than in the fifth inning when Elicia Espinosa led off by lining a single off the right-field wall, missing a go-ahead homer by mere inches. Bowen shook it off and got the next hitter, Katie Faulk, to bunt into a double play.
“That just shows how much of a fighter she is,” Mulipola said. “I mean, she grinds throughout the week and she thrives in moments like that when we need her to be competitive.”
Bowen’s quality starts come at a time when the rest of Arizona’s pitching staff has been struggling. Mariah Lopez has been bitten badly by the long ball and Alyssa Denham has been hit or miss since throwing a pair of shutouts at Stanford in the first week of April.
Bowen, meanwhile, has been the beacon of consistency. She has allowed two runs or less in 10 of her 11 outings this season. She picked up a win Friday by throwing four scoreless innings in a 14-1 blowout.
“She’s developed more mentally and physically—and she hits, so she’s the whole package,” Mulipola said.
Bowen’s velocity now sits in the mid-to-upper 60s and she complements that heat with an improved off-speed pitch that she used to induce a key pop up in the sixth inning.
“My changeup has come a long way,” she said. “I don’t really pay attention to my velocity, but from what my pitching coach says I have gained a couple of miles per hour, but I just try to focus on movement and try to change speeds.”
The Utah series marked the first time Bowen has ever started twice in one weekend—in the circle, at least—but the physical toll doesn’t appear to be anything she can’t handle. She looked her sharpest in the seventh inning when she racked up a pair of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning.
“I’m never tired. I’m always ready to go,” Bowen said. “Wherever coach puts me, I’m going to give 100 percent.”
Cal series in jeopardy?
The Golden Bears (16-12, 3-6) have not played in two weeks due to COVID-19 issues within their program, but Candrea seemed optimistic that they will make the trek to Tucson next weekend.
“I’m hoping right now that they’re done with their quarantine yesterday and that hopefully things will be good for them next week,” he said.
Candrea said the Wildcats will do their best to add a non-conference series if Cal cannot play, but admitted “this time of the year, it’s awfully hard.”