Arizona softball returns home looking for key hits
Fresh off winning one of three at ASU, the No. 10 Arizona softball team will return home to face the No. 24 Stanford Cardinal (24-11, 4-2 Pac-12) for a three-game series starting Friday.
Arizona (29-8, 4-5) has gone 9-7 over its last 16 games after starting the year with a dominating 20-1 record. The recent slump has seen offensive struggles against highly ranked teams and growing frustration.
The Wildcats average 7.5 runs per game, but scored below that average in 11 of their last 16 games, with five of those games having one or fewer Arizona runs scored.
However, members of the team feel like the offense is doing fine and that the team just isn’t getting clutch hits. Senior pitcher Estela Piñon, the team leader in wins, appearances and complete games, said the offense will come around.
Freshman Katiyana Mauga doubles and drives in a run as the Wildcats beat the Oregon State Beavers 9-0 on March 22 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona is 19-0 at home, with 16 mercy rule wins.
“We haven’t given up,” Piñon said. “It’s just having the key hit. … We’ve been hitting, we just haven’t produced any runs. I really believe in my team and know they’re working hard.”
The Cardinal relies heavily on freshman pitcher Madi Schreyer, and for good reason. Schreyer is fourth in the Pac-12 in strikeouts with 119 and has already thrown 153.1 innings in 28 appearances.
As good as Schreyer has been, the rest of the Stanford pitching staff has been pedestrian at best. Only one other player has more than six appearances all season.
If Arizona is going to have a productive series offensively, getting Schreyer off the mound quickly could be the answer. That means the top of the batting order is key for success.
Arizona head coach Mike Candrea recently changed up the top portion of the batting order by moving redshirt junior Chelsea Suitos from the No. 2 spot down to the No. 9 spot in the final game of the ASU series. The move resulted in the highest run total of the series.
The three-game series against Stanford should provide a good chance for Arizona to get the bats back in action. Stanford allows 2.97 runs per game — which is sixth in the Pac-12 — and 1.3 runs per game more than Arizona allows.
“Our team loves playing at home and we play really well at home,” freshman infielder Mo Mercado said. “We could definitely use three more wins, so I’m looking forward to it.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555