Arizona softball returns home to friendly Hillenbrand stadium
After off-time over Easter weekend, the No. 9 Arizona softball team returns to action today in a double-header against the New Mexico State Aggies (26-19).
The two games are scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Hillenbrand Stadium and will be streamed live on pac-12.com.
Arizona (34-9, 9-6 Pac-12 Conference) is undefeated at home and has won six of its last seven games. The Wildcats are scoring 9.1 runs per game over that span, which is 1.3 runs per game more than their season average.
Continuing that offensive outburst has been a topic of discussion for Arizona head coach Mike Candrea as the matchup with New Mexico State approaches. Candrea’s squad used its 10 days’ rest to improve on some areas, like strikeouts, that had plagued the team in recent losses.
Despite playing in the Western Athletic Conference, New Mexico State has a quality pitching staff, and its 26 wins cannot be ignored.
The Aggies have a solid team ERA of 3.59 and don’t rely on any one pitcher to get outs. Three of their four pitchers have pitched at least 88 innings, with Karysta Donisthorpe leading the way with 97.1 innings pitched.
That kind of parity doesn’t exist at Arizona, where only one pitcher has pitched over 60 innings.
The Wildcats rely heavily on senior Estela Piñon, and rightfully so. Piñon leads the team in wins, appearances, games started, innings pitched and strikeouts.
Having a pitcher of her quality certainly permits Candrea to lean heavily on her, rather than having the parity of New Mexico State.
For as much success as Piñon and company have had on the mound, the aforementioned offense might be even better.
New Mexico State will need every bit of pitching it can get to hold back an Arizona team that has almost as many runs (336) as hits (386).
Leading the offensive charge are three Arizona batters with double-digit home runs: redshirt junior shortstop Kellie Fox (12), freshman right fielder Katiyana Mauga (15) and junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre (16).
To put that power into perspective, the trio has combined for more home runs (43) than the total home runs numbers for five other Pac-12 teams.
The ability to change a game in one swing has jump-started an offense that prefers to put away games early. Getting that early lead is even more important when the double-header is taken into account.
With eight of Arizona’s remaining 11 games at home, getting early leads could provide the confidence the team needs to earn a perfect home record.
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555