Softball faces weekday challenge
Fresh off an undefeated weekend, the Arizona softball team has a quick turnaround and plays Ball State in a double-header today at Hillenbrand Stadium at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The Wildcats played most recently on Sunday and defeated Indiana 9-1 in their final game of the 2014 Wildcat Invitational.
The Wildcats finished the invitational 3-0 and outscored their opponents by a combined 26-2.
Leading the offensive charge in the middle of the batting order were junior shortstop Kellie Fox and junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre. The duo hit third and fourth in the batting order and are the top two home run=hitters on the team.
Starter Kenzie Fowler pitched three strikeouts and three walks during Arizona's win against Indiana at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on Sunday. The burden of stopping the Ball State offense will fall upon the pitching staff.
However, Ball State provides a different challenge than recent opponents, as the Cardinals are 12-2 on the season and defeated the No. 3 ASU softball 3-0 on Sunday in Tempe, Ariz. The Sun Devils were held to only six hits by Ball State sophomore pitcher Nicole Steinbach.
“They’re a good team, and they’re very competitive,” UA head coach Mike Candrea said of Ball State.
Arizona is averaging 8.3 runs per game average, and Ball State comes into today’s matchup averaging 6.9 runs per game. Interestingly, the Cardinals have only scored above 10 runs three times this season.
After a slow offensive start to the season, the ASU game is the only game in Ball State’s last seven games where the team has scored fewer than seven runs. Spearheading that offensive attack is senior pitcher/outfielder Jennifer Gilbert. She leads the team in home runs, runs batted in, runs and walks.
Slowing down the Ball State offense will fall upon an Arizona pitching staff that has allowed only 12 runs all season, which translates to .63 runs allowed per game.
With redshirt senior pitcher Kenzie Fowler taking the circle Sunday, the burden of stopping the Cardinals will likely be placed on sophomore pitcher Nancy Bowling and senior pitcher Estela Piñon. The duo is 7-1 on the year and has a combined 15 appearances.
“Coach just told us to make sure we’re ready,” Fowler said. “This is kind of the midpoint of the season, and we have really good competition with Ball State coming in.”
Fowler also mentioned how the Arizona offense backs up the pitching staff and provides confidence when they’re on the mound. Having confidence in the team’s offense should provide Bowling and Piñon with a bit of an energy boost, knowing they have some leeway if things go wrong early.
Looking forward, Arizona will have two days off before heading to Fullerton, Calif., to participate in the Judi Garman Classic over the weekend in the team’s last nonconference action before Pac-12 play begins.
“We’re just going to come out composed and excited to play the game,” Fox said. “We just need to keep on competing and stay together as a team.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne