Arizona softball faces stiff road test in Seattle
Playing away from Hillenbrand Stadium hasn’t gone well for the No. 8 Arizona softball team this season.
After a five-game home stand, the Wildcats play their final road contests of the regular season, a three-game series against the No. 10 Washington Huskies, this weekend. All three games can be seen on Pac-12 Networks. The Wildcats and Huskies play at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and noon on Sunday.
Arizona (39-9, 12-6 Pac-12) has won only six of its 12 road games this season. Luckily for Arizona head coach Mike Candrea, his team is leading the NCAA in home runs with 92 and has a noteworthy lineup.
The Wildcats have six batters with a batting average over .400 and 10 total batters with a batting average over .300. Not to mention, five batters have double-digit home runs, with junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre leading the way with 20 home runs.
Arizona senior pitcher Estela Piñon will lead the Wildcats at Washington this weekend as they try to improve on their 6-6 road record.
“Overall this team, one through nine, has really done a good job,” Candrea said. “Offensively, I’ve just been thoroughly pleased with the quality at bats we’re getting and the production that we’re getting.”
Getting that offense going will not be easy against a Washington pitching staff that has an ERA of 2.00 and 229 strikeouts and has allowed a conference low 88 runs.
However, defeating Washington (28-12, 8-8) will not come down to how well the offense performs. The key for Candrea and his coaches is the pitching staff. Aside from senior Estela Piñon, there hasn’t been much stability.
The pitching staff has solid stats in major statistical categories like ERA and strikeouts, but several pitchers have struggled with command over the past few weeks. Senior Kenzie Fowler has struggled to come back from a back injury that forced her to redshirt last season.
Prior to her injury, Fowler was the staff ace and has failed to regain that spot this season. Instead, Fowler has pitched only 62.1 innings and has more walks (75) than strikeouts (58).
Piñon said the pitchers are still supporting each other despite the recent struggles.
“We have each other’s back and if someone couldn’t do their job. … It’s always nice to know you have someone behind you,” Piñon said.
Since Arizona hasn’t traveled to Washington since 2012, many of the current players have never played there. Only six of the 22 Wildcats on the current roster were on that last team to travel to UW.
That unfamiliarity was also an issue during Arizona’s road trip to California a few weeks ago, and the Wildcats took two of three games in that series.
Goodacre was one of the six that was there in 2012 and said the team is ready to show the Pac-12 it is for real.
“We know what we have to do,” Goodacre said. “We went to Cal and we showed everybody we can win on the road. I think if we could take our game from here and take it with us, we’ll do fine.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555