Water works were on full display Saturday as the No. 9 Arizona softball team said goodbye to its seniors following a disappointing 14-3 loss to No. 1 Oregon at Hillenbrand Stadium to end the regular season.
The Ducks took two out of three from the Wildcats this weekend and now put Arizona is a dicey situation headed into the postseason.
After appearing to find their stride midway into the season, the Wildcats ended the season losing four out of their last six games. Pitching has been a huge reason behind the team’s recent struggles, but overall the Wildcats don’t appear to be the same team they were a month ago. So now instead of hosting an NCAA Tournament Regional and Super Regional it appears the Arizona will can host a Regional.
“I was disappointed overall, not just with pitching,” said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. “From our approach to the game to our [lack of] ability to play defense [and] lack of preparation.”
In their three games this weekend the Wildcats (41-13, 14-10 Pac-12) gave up 29 runs to the Ducks (49-7-1, 20-3-1). Even in their victory over Oregon on Friday, Arizona still needed 11 runs to come away with the three run win.
Candrea said he was pleased with how the Wildcats played Friday and thought it was a big win but he was extremely unhappy with how they finished the series on Saturday.
“It looked like we were happy with the victory last night and didn’t show up to play today,” Candrea said. “I’m pretty disappointed.”
Saturday, which was senior day, was the worst of the three games for the Wildcats who lost 14-3.
Arizona used five pitchers and gave up the 14 runs on 16 hits.
Sophomore Lauren Young provided the only offensive boost for Arizona when she hit a two-run home run in the second inning. The homerun was minimal as the team was already trailing by seven runs prior to the homerun.
“It makes things real difficult when you’re behind early, but you got to remember it’s still early,” Arizona catcher Chelsea Goodacre said. “Coach tell us to take it inning by inning and to chip away. You can’t hit a seven run home run so just try and chip away.”
Arizona, who has an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 152-47, enters the 2014 postseason fresh off playing maybe its toughest stretch of the season. Prior to playing the top ranked Ducks Arizona last week traveled to No. 8 Washington.
Candrea and some of the players said they enjoyed playing tougher teams down the stretch but also we’re a little concerned with how they fared against the more difficult opponents.
“As I told the kids, if these past few games are a barometer of where we are, well we failed,” Candrea said.
Some of the players, though, look at their two wins they had over Washington and Oregon respectively and put a twist on it.
“We beat the No. 1 team in the country and a real good Washington team,” Arizona senior pitcher Estela Piñon said. “We know we can beat any team and hang with any team.”
Arizona’s won’t have to say goodbye to Hillenbrand quite yet, however, as the team is confident they will host a first round NCAA Tournament Regional. But in order to host a NCAA Tournament Super Regional the Wildcats will need to finish in the top eight in the country, which highly unlikely after losing on Saturday according to Candrea.
Staying in Tucson throughout the tournament would be a huge advantage to Arizona who finished the regular season with a home record of 28-2. Arizona was 7-8 on the road and 6-3 in neutral site games.
“Somewhere along the line you got to go on the road and win,” Candrea said. “It’s all about meeting the challenge, stepping up and playing your best softball when it counts and that’s this time of year.”
The NCAA softball Tournament seeding will be announced on ESPNU Sunday at 7 p.m. MST.
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella