Arizona softball hits road for three-game series with Beavers
Arizona softball outfielder Katiyana Mauga (34) swings at a pitch during Arizona's 9-4 loss against ASU on Saturday at Hillenbrand Stadium. Mauga and the Wildcats hit the road to take on Oregon State on Thursday.
Arizona softball travels to Corvallis, Ore., this week to take on Oregon State in a three-game series beginning Thursday afternoon.
The No. 18 Wildcats enter the road-trip with a 3-3 Pac-12 Conference record after dropping two out of three games to rival ASU last weekend.
The UA has found no trouble putting runs on the scoreboard in most of its contests behind an offense that ranks among the nation’s best. However, the Wildcats are still looking for more consistency at the mound with two underclassman pitchers leading the helm.
Michelle Floyd and Trish Parks have occasionally struggled to slow down the bats of heavy-hitting lineups, and Oregon State provides another formidable challenge.
“They’re young and they need experience,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said. “Unfortunately, this is a tough conference to get experience in because it’s very tough top to bottom.”
Floyd leads the staff in most major statistical categories, including innings pitched, strikeouts and ERA. Parks, a freshman, is not far behind.
Both pitchers most recently struggled against the nationally ranked Sun Devils over the first two games of the series before locking down on Sunday and holding ASU to a combined one run over five innings.
The Beavers, unranked with a 4-5 conference record, may not hit the ball as well as the Pac-12’s top teams, but nonetheless enter the series with a respectable .320 batting average. Outfielder Dani Gilmore leads the way with a .411 mark.
“Every day is just take what you got and go after them,” Floyd said. “You have to go after them, whoever you play.”
Arizona’s pitching staff can enter the series knowing they have one of the premier lineups backing them up.
The Wildcats continue to rake at the plate, as they rank fifth in the country with a .366 batting average, and are among the national leaders in slugging percentage, home runs and on-base percentage.
The contribution has come from top to bottom of the lineup, with every regular position player batting over .300.
Katiyana Mauga has provided the power punch by knocking out 15 home runs, which ranks third in the nation and first in the Pac-12. Chelsea Goodacre isn’t far behind with 13.
The lineup’s sluggers benefit from predominantly contact-hitters like Kellie Fox and Chelsea Suitos, who both hover around .400.
Offense should not be an issue against a good-but-not-great Oregon State staff, as long as the Wildcats’ firepower travels with them to Corvallis.
With Pac-12 play setting into full swing, this is a series the Wildcats will need to win, if not sweep, in order to remain in the hunt for a conference championship and a national seed.
“At this stage of the game, every win is huge,” Candrea said. “When you look at rankings and RPI, all that stuff is going to come into effect when you start looking at postseason.”
First pitch on Thursday is at 3 p.m., and the series continues through Friday and Saturday. All three games will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
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