Arizona softball heads to Tuscaloosa for Easton Crimson Classic
This weekend, Arizona softball heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the Easton Crimson Classic, hosted by the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Wildcats are set to play the University of Alabama and McNeese State University each twice and the University of Texas-Arlington once on Sunday afternoon to round up the weekend.
While the Wildcats have already played games outside of Tucson, this weekend will be the first test of the 2020 season where they aren’t playing road games at a neutral venue. Here are a few other things to keep in mind this weekend.
The Wildcats’ rematch against Alabama
The Easton Crimson Classic will be played at Alabama’s own field, Rhoads Stadium, which can seat up to 3,940 fans, topping Hillenbrand Stadium's capacity by more than 1,000. What’s more, the Wildcats have not forgotten that the last time they faced Alabama was at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. That game resulted in a 2-0 loss for the Wildcats putting an end to their 2019 season. Though this might make the pressure appear notably higher for this weekend’s trip, junior Ivy Davis said she believes the Wildcats are ready for the challenge.
“Looking forward to [playing at Rhoades Stadium] because it’s totally a different environment and I’m really excited to see how we as a team perform under that kind of pressure,” Davis said. “I think that’ll kind of light a fire under us. … There’s gonna be people rooting against us the whole time, so I think that’ll definitely help us bring the energy.”
Sophomore Marissa Schuld, who went from playing in nine games last season to amassing a nine-game hitting streak this season, said she thinks the Wildcats will be going into the games with something to prove.
“They beat us last year and we’re gonna want revenge. … We’re gonna have that chip on our shoulder,” Schuld said.
The Wildcats’ recent focus on energy
Maintaining consistently high energy throughout each game has been something Arizona has focused on after each of the team’s losses thus far has been within one or two runs.
“I think that a lot of our energy, it kind of fades throughout the game and the talk that we have on the field needs to get a little better,” freshman Bella Dayton said. “I think we get so far ahead that … we kind of settle and then we’re not able to just pick it back up when time gets tough.”
Dayton continued to say how head coach Mike Candrea has stressed maintaining high energy more than anything else this week.
“[The energy] needs to be produced by them,” Candrea said. “It’s a funny game because it’s like I say: ‘Everyone is kind of a piece of the puzzle.’ And you just gotta own your piece, no matter what that is that day — whether it’s supplying energy from the bench, or whether it’s being on the field and supplying execution out there — but that’s what good teams do.”
Following the Wildcats' three wins and two losses at the Mary Nutter Classic, Arizona moved down a few spots in the AP rankings, going from No. 5 in the country to No. 7. Alabama, who the Wildcats will play on Friday and Saturday, moved up from a No. 10 spot to No. 8 within the past week. However, these numbers don’t have much of an effect on coach Candrea.
“I think [the team] just has to go out and play. They have to realize that they have to play hard no matter who we play and the number doesn’t mean anything,” Candrea said. “This number means nothing. It’s going out there and it’s executing the game and having the belief that you have what it takes to win. … You can’t afford to be thinking about all this other stuff. Next thing you know, you start building someone up bigger than what they are.”
The Wildcats will first face off against McNeese State University on Friday at 12:30 p.m. and will later play Alabama at 5 p.m.
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