Column: Arizona' softball's series loss may predict future
Winning at home will always be easier than winning on the road, but that doesn’t give any team an excuse to play poorly when away from home. The No. 9 Arizona softball team has struggled to win games on the road in a competitive Pac-12 Conference and has played to a 7-8 record on the road this season.
If Arizona head coach Mike Candrea and his squad expect to make a deep postseason run, they need to improve on their road game.
There are really two ways to look at this: either the road record is deceiving because of the teams Arizona has lost to, or it just can’t win away from Hillenbrand Stadium. I think the former is more accurate.
It’s no secret that the Pac-12 has several extremely talented softball teams and Arizona (40-11, 13-8 Pac-12) is one of the five Pac-12 teams in the top 10 nationally.
The Wildcats have played conference road series against UCLA, ASU, California and Washington. Three of those four teams (UCLA, ASU and Washington) are ranked in the top 15 and have fantastic pitching staffs.
Arizona lost all three games to UCLA by a combined 11-4 score and really could not get its offense going against a UCLA pitching staff that has a team ERA of 1.73.
Arizona’s next conference road series was against an ASU team that leads the conference in team ERA at 1.64 and the Wildcats lost two of three to the Sun Devils. If not for a six-run performance in the final game of the series, the offensive stats would have looked much worse.
After winning two of three against Cal, the Wildcats traveled to Washington to take on the Huskies this past weekend. Arizona lost two of three games to Washington and again struggled to score runs against a solid pitching staff.
Candrea said before the Washington series that he would find out a lot about his team over the three games. However, I’m not quite sure how much Candrea learned from this past weekend.
If anything, he learned that his team was inconsistent this weekend and might have won the series had his pitching staff performed better. There also is an underlying theme throughout these road defeats that has to frustrate Candrea: the Wildcats’ inability to match the offense of their opponent. In those nine games, Arizona was outscored 41-21 and went 2-7.
Going forward, the Wildcats need to change their offensive approach against quality pitchers to ensure they have a deep run in the NCAA Championships. The reasoning behind that is that the further the team advances in postseason play, the more talented the teams and pitchers will be.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
A few options could be changing Arizona’s approach at the plate, working on situational hitting or even spending more time in the film room.
Regardless of what Candrea and his staff do, it has to be quick because the No. 1 Oregon Ducks come to Hillenbrand Stadium this upcoming weekend for a three-game series.
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555