Sneak peek at Arizona softball for 2019

Sofia Moraga | The Daily Wildcat Arizona Wildcats celebrate after their 1-0 victory against during St. Francis during their first game of the NCAA championship Tournament on Friday May 18 at the Rita Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.

On June 5, Florida State won its first-ever Women’s College World Series over Washington, an accomplishment that Arizona had its eyes on this season. Despite an impressive 43-16 record, the Wildcats lost in the Super Regionals to third-seed UCLA. 

With the softball off-season officially underway, it's not too early to take a peek at next year's Wildcat softball team. 

Perhaps the most exciting part of the 2019 team will be the addition of pitcher Marissa Schuld. Schuld is an incoming freshman and two-time Arizona Gatorade Player of the year. At Pinnacle High School up the interstate in Phoenix, Schuld posted an 11-1 record, a 0.74 earned-run average and 151 strikeouts en route to a Class 6A state softball title. 

She will join a rotation with senior Taylor McQuillin and junior Alyssa Denham, solidifying Arizona’s pitching core as one of the top in the nation. McQuillin had an strong season as the Wildcats’ ace, earning a 28-12 record, 1.68 ERA and 287 SO in 242 innings of work. Denham also did her fair share on the mound, recording an impressive 10-3 record, 1.85 ERA, and 72 SO in 106 innings.

Arizona's Taylor Mcquillin (18) pitches during the third inning of the Arizona-St. Francis game of the NCAA championship Tournament on Friday May 18 at the Rita Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.

The 'Cats also have Vanessa Foreman from Lakewood, Calif. joining the rotation, but she will likely be the team's fourth pitching option. 

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The 'Cats are only losing three seniors: outfielder Aleah Craighton, outfielder Ashleigh Hughes and catcher Robyn Porter. Hughes was Arizona's lead-off hitter for the majority of the 2018 campaign and Craighton proved stability in the bottom half of the lineup. Despite these losses, Arizona still has plenty of pop in its lineup.. 

First baseman Alyssa Palomino will be returning for her junior season. This past season she earned first-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American honors. Palomino caught many by surprise this season given that she was coming off an ACL tear in 2017. She posted breakout numbers in her return from injury, recording a .363 batting average, 19 home runs, 42 runs batted in. 

One dilemma to keep an eye on will be whether head coach Mike Candrea decides to keep Palomino at first base for health reasons, or if he places her back in the outfield, where she played all of her freshman year. 

Arizona's Alyssa Palomino (32) watches the ball fly into left field during the Arizona-New Mexico State game at the Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on Wednesday April 18 in Tucson Ariz.

Along with Palomino, Jessie Harper is another former first-team NFCA All-American who will be returning for her junior year. The versatile infielder has produced stand-out numbers in two seasons as a Wildcat. Harper has a combined .337 BA, 37 HR, 107 RBI and a .976 fielding percentage over her first two years. With Palomino and Harper in the top half of the lineup, the offense should remain dangerous in 2019.        

Utility player Ali Ashner, outfielder Riley Kuderca and catcher Isabel Pacho are other incoming freshman names to look out for, with each hoping to earn playing time and add additional weaponry to the Wildcat offense. With only three seniors graduating, key stars coming back, and promising young talent coming in, the Wildcats should remain legitimate contenders next season.    

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