Softball hosts Washington in matchup of top 20 teams

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Sally Lugo | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea directs his team during Arizona's 11-1 win against ASU at Hillenbrand Stadium on March 29. The Wildcats take on Washington over the weekend in a matchup of top-20 ranked teams.

Arizona softball hosts what should be a high-scoring series this weekend when the UA and Washington, two of the country’s top offensive teams, meet at Hillenbrand Stadium.

The Wildcats, who sit tied for second in the Pac-12 Conference with a 6-3 league record, enter the weekend on a hot streak after putting up 22 runs against Oregon State on Saturday. The UA outscored the Beavers 38-8 in that series. Arizona coach Mike Candrea expects the Huskies to be more competitive.

“Every weekend is a test for us,” Candrea said. “Washington is a good team. They’re similar to us in that they swing the bats quite well.”

The No. 16 Wildcats and No. 18 Huskies rank near the top of many offensive statistical categories, making this a series that should light up the scoreboard. Arizona ranks third in the country with a .364 batting average, while Washington is third nationally in scoring with 8.26 runs per game.

With so much emphasis placed on offense, whichever team records the key outs on the mound will likely come out victorious.

For Arizona, that means starters Michelle Floyd and Trish Parks need to keep things under control when the Huskies put runners on base. The two pitchers have faced mixed results this season when it comes to limiting high-scoring opponents.

“There will be a lot of runs put on the board, so I think pitching is going to be the key,” Candrea said. “If Michelle and Trish can step up, I think that’s going to be the difference maker of the game.”

Floyd and Parks both handled Oregon State’s lineup without much trouble, but getting through Washington’s offense poses more of a challenge.

Like Arizona, the Huskies are red hot at the plate. Washington is coming off a dominating sweep over Stanford in which it scored double-digit runs in all three games.

Infielder Courtney Gano leads the way for the Huskies with 17 home runs, which ranks most in the Pac-12 and third in the nation. Washington also has a pair of batters hitting .400 or better, including Ali Aguilar, whose .439 average is among the best in the conference.

Arizona has plenty of offensive capability itself.

Every Arizona position player is batting over .300, a claim that few other programs in the country can make. Shortstop Kellie Fox leads the way with a .415 average.

“I think our lineup has gained a lot more maturity, and we’ve come together to build off each other,” Arizona catcher Chelsea Goodacre said.

Goodacre is the nation’s leader in RBIs, with 62, while her 16 home runs are tied for the team lead with Katiyana Mauga.

The Wildcats’ offense will need to maintain its slugging ways for Arizona to maintain pace with Washington.

“We don’t know much about their pitching staff, but basically all we’re going to do is go out there and hit the ball as hard as we can,” Goodacre said.

Opening pitch on Friday is slated for 6 p.m., and action continues through Saturday and Sunday. Both weekend games will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.


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