Arizona Softball kicks off conference play - Tucson News Now

Arizona Softball kicks off conference play

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LEADING OFF

- Arizona is set to kick off its conference slate by welcoming the 17th-ranked Washington Huskies to town. The Wildcats went 12-12 (.500) in the Pac-12's inaugural season a year ago and hold a 419-140-1 (.749) all-time record in the Pac-10/12 (since 1987).

- In the 20 games that Arizona has won, it has scored 143 total runs (7.15 runs per game). In the 20 games it has lost, it has scored seven total runs (0.88 runs per game).

- The Cats and the Huskies each participated in the Judi Garman Classic last weekend in Fullerton. Arizona went 2-3 while Washington went 3-2. The teams had two common opponents and enjoyed similar results. Both teams lost to Michigan (Arizona 9-1, Washington 6-1) and run-ruled Penn State (Arizona 10-2, Washington 13-2).

- Monday's contest on the Pac-12 Network will be the first of nine games scheduled on the channel. Arizona has two additional TV games on the ESPN family of networks.

- Arizona owns a 60-24 record all-time against Washington, including taking 2-of-3 from the Huskies in Seattle in 2012.

- UA is in search of its first win against a ranked opponent. UA is 0-5 in such contests this year. The Cats will get three cracks at it this weekend, as Washington is ranked 17th by both polls.

- Arizona will not see another neutral site this regular season, which is a good thing for the Cats. Arizona is just 7-8 in neutral-site games. Compare that to a perfect 13-0 record at home.

- Chelsea Goodacre continues to crush the ball for the Cats. The sophomore started the season 2-for-22. Since then, Goodacre is 31-for-57 (.544) in a streak stretching 21 games. The Temecula, Calif., native is batting .418 on the year with 10 homers and 32 RBI to lead the team in all three categories.

THIS WEEK: Arizona (20-8) kicks off conference play in search of its first victory against a ranked opponent. The Wildcats welcome the 17th-ranked Washington Huskies (22-7) for a three-game series at Hillenbrand Stadium this Saturday through Monday. The tilt on Monday will be Arizona's first game televised on the Pac-12 Network, with Anne Marie Anderson and Wildcat great Jennie Finch providing commentary. 

THE GAMES

Date                                     Time (PDT)                     Opponent                Location

Saturday, March 23   6:00 p.m. PDT               (17/17) Washington     Hillenbrand Stadium

Sunday, March 24       2:00 p.m. PDT               (17/17) Washington    Hillenbrand Stadium

Monday, March 25     7:00 p.m. PDT               (17/17) Washington      Hillenbrand Stadium

SERIES HISTORY: The Wildcats have defeated the Huskies in 60 of the 84 all-time games between the squads, including 2-of-3 in Seattle in 2012. Arizona has taken the series in each of the last two seasons and overall and have won five of the last seven meetings.

OPPONENTS

Washington: The Huskies (22-7) are ranked 17th in both the NFCA Top 25 and the USA Softball poll. Washington defeated Pacific, DePaul and Penn State at the Judi Garman Classic last weekend and fell to Texas and Michigan. UW excels in the circle with a team ERA of 1.98, led by Kaitlin Inglesby (8-3, 1.12 ERA, 50 Ks, 56.0 IP). Despite not being the most powerful offense, Washington possesses a .352 team average and .447 OBP with 30 stolen bases. Inglesby (.386 avg, 6 2B, 7 HR, 38 RBI, .693 slg%) and Hooch Fagaly (.408, 6 2B, 6 HR, 31 RBI, .724 slg%, .554 OBP) lead the way at the plate. 

HEAD COACH MIKE CANDREA: Arizona head coach Mike Candrea is in his 28th year at the helm of the Arizona softball program with a career record of 1,330-304-2 (.814). A winner of eight national championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2006, 2007), Arizona has made 22 trips to the Women's College World Series under his guidance, missing just thrice in the last 25 years (2004, 2011, 2012). In 2012, Candrea became the sport's fastest ever, and second all-time, to reach 1,300 wins. Under Candrea, Arizona has a spectacular postseason record of 151-45. An even 50 All-Americans with a staggering 90 total citations have played in the program since Candrea took over.  

THE RANKINGS: Arizona dropped to number 16 in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll and 21st in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 after being ranked 14th and 19th, respectively, a week ago. The Wildcats were ranked preseason No. 13 by the NFCA and 14 by USA Softball. 

RECENT RESULTS: The Cats won two games and lost three at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., the last time out. Arizona scored just 15 runs in the five games (3 per game) after scoring 75 runs in the previous eight contests (9.4 runs per game). Arizona defeated Notre Dame (2-0) and Penn State (10-2, 5 innings) and lost to Virginia Tech (9-2), No. 15 Michigan (9-1, 6 innings) and No. 1 Oklahoma (4-0) in the tournament. Chelsea Goodacre remained hot for the Cats, hitting .538 with a pair of homers and five runs batted in to bring her team-leading season totals to 10 and 32, respectively. Hallie Wilson and Lauren Young also homered during the tournament. Mandie Perez hit .400 during perhaps her best tournament as a Wildcat. 

RECENT RESULTS AGAINST WASHINGTON: UA took 2-of-3 from Washington last season in Seattle. Arizona entered the weekend ranked 17th in the country while UW was regarded as the fourth best team nationally. The Wildcats would take the rain altered series (Game 2 was suspended in the sixth inning Friday night and completed prior to Game 3, Saturday), earning two of its eventual three wins against top-10 teams in the process. The Cats won the first two games 2-0 and 5-3 before dropping the finale 7-5. Hallie Wilson batted .444 in the three games and hit of her two home runs on the season. 

WHO'S HOT?

Chelsea Goodacre:  Goodie opened the season just 2-for-her-first-22. After the slow start, the sophomore is 31-for-her-last-57 (.544) in a streak stretching 21 games. In the month of March, Goodacre is hitting .647 in 13 games with six homers and 21 RBI.  

Lauren Young: LY has hit six home runs in her last eight games after homering just twice in her first 20 contests in an Arizona uniform. 

Hallie Wilson: Like Young, Wilson has been on somewhat of a home run binge recently, though a bit more subdued. In her last eight games, the sophomore has hit three home runs; In Wilson's previous 76 career games, she hit two total homers.

Mandie Perez: The freshman hit .400 at the Judi Garman Classic and drove in a trio of runs. Perez began the season 4-for-her-first-28 (.142). Since then, the left fielder is 14-for-34 (.411). 

Nancy Bowling: For the first time in her career, Bowling took the ball for the bulk of the Wildcats' innings in the Judi Garman Classic, assuming the ace role for the first time. Bowling pitched 15.2 of Arizona's 30.1 innings at the Judi Garman Classic and received the start in both the Wildcats' games against ranked opponents. Bowling struck out a staggering 10 batters, a career best, while pitching just five innings against Oklahoma.

SOMETIMES IT'S THERE: Arizona's offense has been doing its best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impersonation all season long. In the Wildcats' 20 wins this season, the offense has scored 143 runs. That's an average of better than seven runs per game. In Arizona's eight losses, the offense has put up a total of seven runs. Arizona has been shutout four times already this season; the Wildcats were shutout just five times in 2012 and just once before the start of conference play. However, on the other side of that coin, Arizona has scored in double-digits seven times already this year; last year the Wildcats put up 10-or-more runs just four times. So for the 2013 Cats, the runs seem to come in bunches, or not at all.

FREE BASES: UA opponents have scored in 57 separate innings this season, in 48 of those innings, Arizona's pitching and defense, through walks, hit batsmen, wild pitches, passed balls or errors, have given the opposing offense at least one free base.  

HOME SWEET HOME: Arizona returns to the friendly confines of Hillenbrand Stadium, where it is a perfect 13-0 this season. Since its opening in 1993, Arizona has put up a 576-61 record on the field. That's a .904 winning percentage at home in the last 20 years. Hillenbrand has led the nation in attendance nine times since 1994 and set the NCAA record in attendance in 2011 when 77,129 fans turned the turnstiles. UA has averaged over 2,000 fans per game for each of the last four seasons, including last year when it brought in 2,328 per game. 

FRESH FACES: The 2013 Arizona roster features nine newcomers to just seven returning players. Three of the nine newbies are junior transfers -- Kellie Fox (UCLA - ineligible to compete this season due to NCAA transfer rules), Estela Piñon (Yavapai College) and Kelsey Rodriguez (Pacific) -- and six are freshmen -- Nancy Bowling (Simi Valley, Calif.), Mandie Perez (Whittier, Calif.), Courtney Rodriguez (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Gabbie Sandstedt (Glendale, Ariz.), Darcy Taylor (Jenks, Okla.) and Lauren Young (Anaheim Hills, Calif.).

FAMILY TIES: In 27 years, head coach Mike Candrea has never had sisters come through the program, in 2013, he has two pairs. Siblings Kelsey and Courtney Rodriguez are the first pair of sisters to ever be on the same Wildcat team. UCLA transfer Kellie Fox is the sister of former Wildcat shortstop and two-time national champion Kristie Fox (04-07). 

BDP: Brigette Del Ponte's double, two RBI and seven assists over the weekend helped improve her standing in the Arizona career top 10 in the three categories. The senior is currently tied for seventh with 57 home runs, two away from Mackenzie Vandergeest in sixth place. The shortstop has 214 career RBI, ninth best in program history. Del Ponte will need 18 RBI to catch Kristie Fox's 230 RBI in eighth place. Del Ponte is seventh with 405 assists. The senior is ninth with 50 career doubles. 

UP NEXT: Arizona will compete in its first true road series of the season when it heads to Salt Lake City to take on Utah, March 28-30.

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