Wildcats prove consistent mentality
The Arizona Wildcats softball team wrapped up their weekend in Palm Springs, California, finishing 2-3 to bring their record to 8-3 overall. The team scored two big wins over No. 4 LSU and No. 15 Central Florida.
They also lost to two unranked opponents in Central Michigan and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, dropping the team’s rank from No. 9 to No. 15 in the USA Today poll.
The weekend featured the Wildcats scoring 19 runs against ranked UCF, while being shut down by the likes of unranked CMU and Cal Poly.
Arizona softball head coach Mike Candrea was surprised with the outcomes of the games against the unranked opponents.
“I was a little shocked we did not do as well as we did against some teams that were inferior,” Candrea said. “We played well against the good teams and did not play well against the teams that we should beat.”
Outside of an incredible 19-run performance against UCF, the bats were quiet for the Wildcats over the weekend, scoring no more than four runs in any other game.
The bats will have to be much more consistent over the weekend in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with three games against ranked competition. One of the things Candrea has harped on so far this season is the consistency of his young team.
The Wildcats suffered a tough injury over the weekend. Junior Eva Watson will be out four to six weeks with a knee injury. Watson is a very important piece to the Arizona lineup and is leading the team in batting average at .552 and is second in runs scored with 12.
Losing someone with Watson’s ability to get on base and cause headaches on the base paths is not an easy problem to solve. Armed with a number of young players, someone on the Wildcats will have to step up.
“I think one of the great things about this game, someone goes down you have someone else who can step in and take advantage of the opportunity,” Candrea said.
Mauga hit her 50th career home run of the weekend in the loss to No. 25 Texas A&M. She became the fastest player in school history to achieve the feat.
She has been adjusting to pitcher’s game plans this year more than she ever has.
“I’m not getting any of the pitches that I like, so I have to be smarter in the box,” Mauga said. “It’s a work in progress. I have to be patient I am working on it right now.”
Danielle O’Toole is the clear ace for Arizona moving forward. The redshirt junior has started six of the 11 games so far and has started 5-1. Her lone loss came at the hands of Texas A&M, after a 2-0 start against ranked opponents LSU and UCF.
O’Toole dominated LSU throwing a complete game shutout that included eight strikeouts. O’Toole only gave up one earned run over five innings against UCF. She is looking forward to this weekend and the competition in Tuscaloosa.
“They’re going to have a large crowd, and I’m really hoping that we can adjust well to it. I think last year in Louisiana it was a problem we had not faced yet,” O’Toole said.
Improved consistency is going to be the key for the Wildcats in the upcoming weekend. The team has the confidence to compete against and beat high ranked opponents, but have also played down to their opponents when playing against inferior competition.
Taylor McQuillin suffered her first loss of the season to Central Michigan. Mcquilin will likely get a start versus a ranked opponent this weekend, either No. 14 Tennessee or No. 4 Alabama, and the Wildcats need a strong performance from the freshman.
A bright spot for the team thus far has been players stepping up both at the top and bottom of the lineup. Freshman Tamara Statman has swung the bat well and has two home runs on the year. Statman will have a chance to fill the second spot in the lineup as a replacement for Watson.
Nancy Bowling has also stepped up both in the circle and at the plate. The redshirt junior had career highs in hits and RBIs in a game with four a piece against UCF. Bowling threw 9.1 innings at the Mary Nutter Classic, allowing only five baserunners throughout the tournament. All of her appearances came in relief, and Bowling figures to be the top arm out of the bullpen for Arizona. Having a consistent arm like Bowling’s out of the ‘pen can prove to be very valuable this season.
The team seems confident with its performances against top competition this weekend and wants to build on those solid performances.
“We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, swinging the bat and playing as a team,” Bowling said.
The Wildcats believes they can compete with anyone and they are ready for the challenge in Tuscaloosa this weekend.
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