No. 21 Arizona softball will have weekend of firsts at Utah
It’s a weekend of firsts for the No. 21 Arizona softball team — in its first trip to Utah in decades, it will play its first road games of the year, in the inaugural Pac-12 series at the Utes’ brand new stadium.
The Wildcats (21-10, 1-2 Pac-12) open play Thursday at 6 p.m. in a series where head coach Mike Candrea said he expects Utah (13-14-1, 0-3) to be more excited than usual.
Junior pitcher and designtated player Estela Piñon agrees that the Utes will bring their ‘A’ game.
“Who wouldn’t?” Piñon said. “Of course they’re going to bring [it] … Everybody wants to beat us. So any team we play, we’re going to have to go out there and play our hardest, and not judge based on their names or where they’re at, where they’re standing.”
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA Softball team lost for the second time to Washington Monday night. They played a total of 3 games against Washington and lost 2 of them.
Utah lost the first game in the stadium’s history 4-1 to Utah Valley on Tuesday with 184 people in attendance.
Arizona owns a 24-6 all-time record against the Utes and swept them last year in Tucson. The last time Arizona played at Utah, the Utes won 4-0 in the Tri Arc Invitational in 1985.
“I was in Salt Lake many years ago, before they even had a facility there, but I guess this is a new facility,” Candrea said. “We’re anxious to see what it looks like and it is what it is. More importantly, we have to be ready to play and do what we need to do.”
Arizona has won 19 in a row against the Utes, a streak that stretches back to 1989.
Piñon has played in Utah before, but not in “a while.” She said she isn’t sure how much the thin air will affect the games.
“We’ll see,” Piñon said. “I would say you can’t leave balls up on the plate, for both teams obviously. We’ll see what happens.”
Candrea said that the “ball carries” at high altitudes.
“I told the girls, ‘Just expect to be cold and get ready to get after it,’” Candrea said.
The dimensions at Utah Softball Stadium are 235 feet to center field and 225 feet in right and left, compared to 200 feet down the lines and 220 feet in center at Hillenbrand Stadium.
“That’ll put a premium on outfield play,” Candrea said. “You have to be able to defend and there’s probably a reason why they did that, because of the altitude. We’ve played at other ballparks with altitude and you gotta be the one to do your job and play your game.”
Last weekend Arizona lost its first Pac-12 series to No. 15 Washington, which adds urgency to the Utah series.
“It makes it really big. Having those two losses, that’s tough for us,” Piñon said. “We want these wins. They are important for us.”
Sophommore catcher and designated player Chelsea Goodacre hit two home runs in the series with the Huskies, giving her 12 on the year and tying her for eighth-most in the country. Goodacre also has 36 RBIs on the year, placing her fifth in the Pac-12 and 29th in the nation.
Sophomore firstbaseman/outfielder Hallie Wilson moved ahead of Goodacre for best batting average on the team (.413) after starting the season 4-for-18 (.222).
Arizona averages 7.14 runs per game and a .362 batting average in its wins, but just more than one run (1.1) per game and a .199 batting average in losses.
Utah has lost eight in a row.