No.3 Arizona gets set for pivotal matchup with No. 6 Oregon in weekend series
Arizona outfielder Katiyana Mauga (34) hits deep into the outfield, bringing teammate Mandi Perez (55) home at Hillenbrand Stadium on Friday, March 25. The Wildcats are headed into the final stretch of the regular season.
After a difficult series in Salt Lake City over the weekend, the Arizona Wildcats blew off some steam in a two-game series against New Mexico State earlier in the week, out-scoring their opponent 19-1. Now the team’s focus shifts to Hillenbrand Stadium, where they welcome the No. 6-ranked Oregon Ducks in a pivotal showdown of top 10-ranked teams and huge Pac-12 title implications.
The Ducks have hit a bump in the road the past few weeks. After being ranked No. 1 in the country, the Ducks have lost four of their last six games. Falling behind the Wildcats in the Pac-12 Conferences, for the first time in the last four years, Oregon could fail to win the Pac-12. Oregon’s shaky play as of late gives Arizona a perfect time to show off its powerhouse lineup.
Tuesday's games against New Mexico State saw Katiyana Mauga move one home run shy of tying the all-time school record. She’s swinging the bat with some force, hitting seven home runs in her last eight games and collecting 14 RBIs in the process; she’ll hope to give the Duck’s pitching staff headaches all weekend long.
“I really appreciate her as a player and as a person. Her opinion is very valuable to me. Nobody’s really talking about her breaking the record, but I think it would be really cool for her,” Arizona pitcher Danielle O’Toole said.
For shortstop Mo Mercado, this weekend’s series will extend far beyond the field as the senior squares off against her sister Danica. It will be the final time these two siblings take field against one another, adding further intrigue at the upcoming series.
“It definitely makes it more fun. It was weird at first because we were always on the same team. Now it’s just a friendly competition around the house, and the whole family with be here this weekend, too. It should be a really fun time,” Mercado said.
Mo leads the team in batting average, hitting .425, and leads the team in doubles, as well as hits, not to mention her defensive play has been a reason for the Wildcats' promising record. Her sister, Danica, also finds herself with a solid .411 batting average for the season and a slugging percentage of .558. It will be interesting to see how the sisters match up with one another in this three-game set.
As for the rest of the Ducks, they’ve been led by both a freshman and senior this season. Freshman pitcher Maggie Balint has been outstanding this season, ranked No. 8 in the country with an ERA of 0.86, while also averaging 8.8 strikeouts, which ranks No. 24 in that category nationwide. Senior leadership has come in the form of shortstop Nikki Udria. Ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 in batting average with .434, Udria has commended the Ducks' offense throughout the season and looks to continue this produce this weekend.
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