Arizona softball looks to bounce back against Oregon State
After dropping to No. 28 in the latest NCAA Women’s Softball RPI rankings, Arizona (28-19, 5-10 Pac-12) is looking to rebound and finish the year off strong, beginning with this weekend’s series against Oregon State.
The Wildcats will travel to Corvallis, Ore., in a key conference series this weekend. Going into play, Arizona and Oregon State are separated by just one game in conference standings.
“This weekend is important,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “What’s happened has happened — we need to keep moving forward and pushing ourselves. I’m still confident that we can turn things around and pull ourselves up.”
Saturday’s duel between the ’Cats and Beavers will mark the 100th time that the two teams have met, and Friday night’s match will be the first time that the Beavers’ head coach, Laura Berg, goes up against her mentor, Candrea. Both played integral roles in the success of Team USA’s softball program, which earned a gold medal in 2004 and silver in 2008.
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Softball took on UCLA this weekend and lost the series 2-1.
Berg, a four-time Olympian, joined USA Softball in 1994 as a center fielder and has been recognized as the most decorated USA Softball Olympic athlete in history, helping the U.S. to three gold medals (’96, ’00 and ’04) and one silver medal (’08). In August 2012, she moved from being an OSU assistant coach to her first head coaching position.
In the past 98 games between the two teams, Arizona holds a dominant 88-10 game advantage over the Beavers and has only lost one series, while Oregon State won 2-3 in 2005’s matchup. In last year’s contest, Arizona took two of three from the Beavers.
The Wildcats enter play with a 30-4 record overall at the Beavers’ home field.
“There’s no doubt that [we] want it,” second baseman Chelsea Suitos said. “These games mean a lot. There is always room for improvement, but as long as we keep working and making our adjustments, I think we will show positive results.”
Suitos leads the team with a .400 batting average over the past 10 games and has proven to be valuable with runners in scoring position, collecting four RBI after only recording seven over the first 37 games.
Freshman Mandie Perez has also stepped up recently, hitting .444 (4-9) with two RBI against No. 21 UCLA last week. She has enjoyed respectable performances in her first season as a Wildcat and ranks second on the team with a .400 average with runners in scoring position and fourth with 24 RBI.
Despite past successes against Oregon State, Arizona, who has struggled offensively lately, will remain cautious going into play.
After being shut out only five times last year, the Wildcats have already been held scoreless on six occasions this season. But the ’Cats have had a tendency to strike with bigger numbers this year. They’ve already played twice as many games with double-digit runs this year (eight) as last year.
“We need to seize every opportunity,” Perez said. “The season is quickly coming to a close and we want a strong finish. It starts with this weekend.”