Softball opens Pac-12 play at UCLA
After a 3-2 record last weekend in the Judi Garman Classic, the No. 8 Arizona softball team begins Pac-12 Conference play against No. 3 UCLA this weekend.
The Wildcats (23-3) will travel to Los Angeles for a three-game series against the Bruins from Saturday to Monday.
UCLA (23-1) is on a six-game winning streak and is one of four Pac-12 schools ranked higher than Arizona in the national rankings. In addition, the Bruins will be the highest ranked opponent the Wildcats have faced all season.
“We’re going to come out fighting in the first game,” sophomore infielder Lauren Young said. “We’re going to move runners over and do the little things.”
Starting early has been a season-long point of emphasis for an Arizona offense that has outscored opponents 205-28 for an average of 8.46 runs per game. The Wildcats have triple-digit runs batted in totals, and eight Wildcats have double-digit runs. Such a deep lineup likely requires opposing pitchers to carefully face every batter, since there aren’t any easy outs on the team.
That lineup parity could give Arizona a better shot at competing in a hostile conference road series against UCLA’s dominating pitching staff that allows opponents to bat only .173. UCLA junior pitcher Ally Carda leads the staff with a 13-1 record and seven complete games.
Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said the teams are evenly matched and the games might come down to one or two plays.
“It’s going to come down to who gets the key hit and who can make the key pitch,” Candrea said. “When you have evenly matched teams, that’s what it comes down to: execution.”
Another storyline for the series that should further increase the intensity level is that UCLA transfer and current Wildcat redshirt junior shortstop Kellie Fox will be facing her former team for the first time.
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555