Arizona's pitchers 'leaning on each other' during Women's College World Series run
OKLAHOMA CITY — Once its greatest weakness, Arizona's pitching has quickly become a strength during its Women's College World Series run.
Led by Hanah Bowen and Devyn Netz, the Wildcats have allowed just 11 runs in seven NCAA Tournament games, going 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA, a massive improvement from the 6.10 ERA they posted in Pac-12 play.
Bowen and Netz worked together to knock out Oregon State in the WCWS on Friday, with Netz pitching the first five innings and Bowen hurling the final two. They allowed just three hits in the 3-1 victory.
"I think (it's) just feeding off each other," Bowen said afterwards. "She brings great energy. I bring great energy. I think just building one another and just keep competing."
Added Netz: "I'd say a lot of work has gone into our relationship, both in the bullpen and off the field. It's something we've had to work on because we faced a lot of adversity during conference play. When we came here, we knew we had a clean slate. Knowing that is pretty fun. It's been fun playing with you, Bo."
Bowen and Netz both pitch with fiery demeanors — Bowen is known for her emphatic fist pumps and Netz shows emotion with screams — and have repertoires that complement each other well, with Bowen working up in the strike zone and Netz down.
When head coach Caitlin Lowe feels the opposing lineup has a beat on one of them, she can make a change to give them a different look.
It took some time for her pitchers to be with OK with that.
"They had to get kind of a little bit vulnerable," Lowe said. "It sounds so corny, but we talked about being like Swiss cheese at the beginning of the year: As slices of Swiss cheese, we've got our holes and our flaws, not everyone is perfect. As the block of Swiss cheese, we are perfect, this perfect chunk and piece together.
"They realized that they could do it together and have those weaknesses, have those flaws. We needed something up in the zone. Devyn doesn't throw that, that's not her specialty. Bo comes in and does it for her. That makes my heart happy that they're leaning on each other, not just in the circle, but all around, offense, defense and in the circle."
Netz was one of the first players to greet Bowen in front of the dugout after she locked down Friday's 3-1 win.
"It's what you live for," Lowe said. "It's what makes the game so great, when you have that joy for your teammate's performance. You've kind of come full circle and you just have get it, you get how to play the game the right way. I think it's so important."
Bowen, a fifth-year senior, already had a plethora of postseason experience heading into this NCAA Tournament, but this is Netz's first go-around as a staple of the pitching staff.
As the stage has gotten bigger, the sophomore has gotten better, allowing just two runs in three postseason starts, mixing in more and more off-speed pitches to keep hitters off-balance.
Netz said pitching in the Women's College World Series has actually been less nerve-wracking than Regionals and Supers.
"I know coming in here, I have nothing to lose," she said. "I know I have [Bowen] in the bullpen, a good offense, a good defense. ... At this level everyone is going to score at least one run, two runs. This is postseason, so this is going to be a tight game no matter what. I knew if I just trusted in my team, they were going to have my back."
The Wildcats will take on Texas in an elimination game Sunday at 4 p.m. PT on ESPN2.