Arizona softball's road woes
It doesn’t take a genius to know that it’s easier to win at home than on the road. The friendly confines of a home ballpark provide the home team with an energy that just isn’t there in a hostile road environment.
For the Arizona softball team, this has been the problem all season.
Arizona has won 34 of its 43 games this season, but those totals have been overshadowed by its play on the road. The Wildcats have a sub-.500 record on the road, having won only five of their 11 road games.
“I look back at those [road defeats], and the biggest thing is they were all games that we had an opportunity,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “We just didn’t quite cash in at that time.”
Softball head coach Mike Candrea walks to the umpire to make a change to the team's lineup during Arizona's 18-12 win against Stanford at Hillenbrand Stadium on April 4.
With only three road games remaining, there is little time for Candrea’s ball club to improve upon what has been one of the few weak points of this year’s Arizona team.
Candrea said he realizes his team needs to get better on the road, but the competition his team has faced can’t be overstated.
Senior pitcher Estela Piñon shared similar sentiments and said that every team in the conference is talented.
“Of course all the Pac-12 [Conference] teams have good pitching,” Piñon said. “It’s just about battling and finding a way to win a game.”
As Candrea and Piñon alluded to, five of Arizona’s six road losses have come against two of the best teams in the country: UCLA and ASU.
The Wildcats lost three straight games to UCLA in mid-March by a combined 11-4 score. UCLA’s pitching staff, which leads the Pac-12 in major statistical categories like ERA and hits allowed, stymied an Arizona offense that averages a conference-leading 7.8 runs per game.
Arizona also lost two of three games to ASU at the end of March with a combined score of 11-6. Behind ASU star pitcher Dallas Escobedo, the Sun Devils limited Arizona much the same way UCLA did.
The huge issue in those five losses was the number of hitters left at the plate. Of Arizona’s 165 strikeouts, 43 came in those five losses.
Consistently, productive at-bats have been Arizona’s calling card at home, but the same can’t be said for its road performances. If the Wildcats want to advance deep in postseason play, changing their approach at the plate against top-level competition is a must.
“Going out with the same mentality that we do at home and just being confident at our away games when we step in the box [is important],” Fox said. “We’ve been in every single game … and that’s all we’ve got to keep on doing. Things will fall our way.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
Candrea said while strikeouts are detrimental, his team needs to improve in all aspects of the game if it is to reach its end goal of a national championship.
“We just have to go out and execute the game the way we know we can,” Candrea said, “being the aggressor and having quality at-bats, playing good defense and getting good pitching. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the road or you’re here [at home]. We just need to make sure that we’re prepared when the first pitch is thrown.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555