Arizona hosts rival ASU on a streak

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Sally Lugo | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea speaks with his team towards the end of its 8-3 win against UNLV at Hillenbrand Stadium on March 4. The Wildcats look to maintain their momentum against ASU after making progress following a rough patch in their season.

Arizona softball hosts ASU this weekend for a three-game series between a pair of top-25 programs each looking to maintain momentum.

Coming off five consecutive wins including a series victory over nationally ranked Cal, No. 14 Arizona now enters a crucial stretch of Pac-12 Conference play, beginning with the Sun Devils.

The series opens up this Friday evening at Hillenbrand Stadium and continues through Saturday and Sunday.

The Wildcats come into the rivalry series on a groove at the plate, averaging 10 runs per game over the last six outings. Most recently, Arizona dropped 25 runs on New Mexico State in a doubleheader sweep.

“We’ve made some progress the past couple weeks,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said. “Beginning at Cal, they’ve competed hard, and I know they’ll continue to do that.”

A number of Wildcats have contributed to the jump in offensive production, such as Katiyana Mauga who was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Tuesday. Mauga went 8-15 over four games last week.

Mauga is second in the conference with 13 homers and sits at third with 41 RBIs.

Not to be overshadowed by Mauga’s big bat, Chelsea Goodacre enters the ASU series on a tear of her own, including three home runs in one game against New Mexico State.

Candrea credits the Wildcats’ uptick in production for waiting until the right pitch before hacking.

“I think our big thing right now is walking up and having a plan,” Candrea said. “We need to have patience and discipline at the plate so that we’re swinging at strikes and taking balls. Keep it simple.”

On the mound, Candrea is hoping to receive another string of solid performances from Michelle Floyd and Trish Parks, whose recent outings have been “all you can ask for,” from a coach’s perspective.

Parks was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week in part for her complete-game, two-hit shutout over UConn on March 18. Later that day, Floyd allowed San Diego State a single run in a complete game.

Floyd tossed another complete game against New Mexico State on Saturday and enters this weekend with a team-best 2.38 ERA.

Now, Floyd and Parks are tasked with slowing down a streaky Sun Devils lineup that has shown solid success against Cal and Washington the past two weeks.

“As you get into Pac-12 play with three-game series, people are going to make adjustments, and as a hitter, you’re going to have to feel what they’re dealing to you and pick a zone in which you can cash in,” Candrea said.

ASU doesn’t come close to matching Arizona in team batting average (.305 vs. .370), but the Sun Devils do have a pair of players, Abby Spiel and Amber Freedman, hovering around .400.

If the UA can limit those two, Arizona could find itself in good shape.

“It’s the same mindset,” Floyd said. “We’ve played a lot of teams with big bats, so it’s keeping the same mindset to go after them. Any team can hit if you give them a chance.”

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.


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