Tucson native and Sahuaro High School graduate Gina Snyder continues to make her case to be a part of Arizona’s pitching rotation.
The redshirt senior, who transferred from Purdue after battling through a debilitating illness, blew through Kent State in a 10-0 five-inning run-rule victory Friday night at Hillenbrand Stadium. She struck out seven through the first three innings before being replaced in the fifth after throwing 50 pitches and allowing one hit.
Her first official start this season came on the heels of a dominant performance last Saturday in Palm Springs, California. Snyder became the first collegiate pitcher to beat the Japanese national team, throwing a complete-game shutout as the No. 12 Wildcats (12-5) won 1-0 in an exhibition.
Combine that with Friday’s performance, and Snyder, who had just three appearances last season, thinks she has made the case for a bigger role. Her coach, Mike Candrea, agrees.
“Taylor (McQuillin) is still my go-to, and then we have really good support for her,” Candrea said. “But Gina has climbed the ladder. That is the one thing I can tell you. She’s definitely earned it.”
On Friday, Snyder was supported by a dominant offensive performance.
Each Wildcat starter had reached base before the close of a six-run fourth inning. Jessie Harper built off two home runs in Friday’s first game, a 9-4 win over Drake, with another against Kent State, and freshman Izzy Pacho of Ironwood Ridge High hit the first home run of her UA career. Harper is one homer shy of the NCAA lead with nine this season, and Arizona has a combined eight in its last three games.
“We have so much confidence in our offense, one through nine,” Harper said. “As long as one of us is hitting, all of us should be hitting.”
In the first game, Arizona’s offensive fireworks were enough to overcome another difficult outing from Alyssa Denham, the Wildcats’ No. 2 pitcher last season. Denham’s ERA jumped to 2.69 after she allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts in five innings. She was pulled for the second game in a row after allowing a two-run homer to Libby Ryan and back-to-back walks in the sixth inning.
Giving up homers has been a concern for Denham, a pitch-to-contact righty who has allowed four in 26 innings. Last year, she allowed 12 in 106 innings with a 1.85 ERA.
“She’s hanging some pitches,” Candrea said. “Sometimes you can hang pitches and get away with them, and sometimes when you hang pitches, they cost you.”
It has opened the door for others, including Snyder, to slide in as the No. 2 pitcher behind McQuillin, who registered a save with two scoreless innings in relief against Drake.
“I don’t think about it,” Snyder said. “I just think any opportunity is an opportunity to do what I can and have fun. It’s my last year so why not?”
Arizona meets No. 23 Minnesota at 4 p.m. Saturday before a rematch with Kent State at 6:15 p.m.