Arizona Softball hoping to end WCWS drought - Tucson News Now

Arizona Softball hoping to end WCWS drought

16 teams will vie this weekend for eight spots in the Women's College World Series (Photo courtesy: ESPN) 16 teams will vie this weekend for eight spots in the Women's College World Series (Photo courtesy: ESPN)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It’s best 2-of-3 for a trip to Oklahoma City. 

It’s that simple for the Wildcats (39-19) and the fourth-seeded Tigers (52-9) when they meet this weekend in Auburn, Alabama in the NCAA Softball Super Regionals. 

Arizona is eyeing its 23rd Women’s College World Series and ninth national title, but the Wildcats have not been in this role since the program’s first National Championship in 1991: the underdog.

The Wildcats advanced to super Regionals of the tournament for the 11th time in the 12 seasons since the NCAA Super Regional round was created in 2005, but this marks the first time the Wildcats have done it as an unseeded team. 

Arizona is attempting to become the second unseeded team since 2009 to advance to the Women’s College World Series while winning on the road for both Regionals and super Regionals. Arizona is trying to become the first team ever to win at SEC-hosted Regionals and super Regionals to advance to the WCWS. Since 2009, just four unseeded teams have made it to the Women’s College World Series.

Both Arizona and Auburn went 3-0 in the Regional, though the roads were drastically different. Auburn defeated Jacksonville State twice and USC Upstate to advance to super Regionals while Arizona needed two wins vs. the No. 13 seed Tennessee as well as a victory over Ohio State to open play.

The key to winning according to Arizona head coach Mike Candrea? “Good pitching, good defense and timely hitting.” The Wildcats gave him just that in Knoxville, posting a 0.95 team ERA, a .989 fielding percentage and scoring 10 key runs, nine of which occurred in the fourth inning or later, in three close, low-scoring affairs.

Danielle O’Toole was a workhorse, throwing 19.1 of Arizona’s 22 innings, 16 of which occurred in 31-hour stretch between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. She threw a two-hit shutout vs. Ohio State to open the regional before throwing a one-hitter vs. Tennessee in game 2 in which she retired the final 21 batters of the game. O’Toole posted a 1.09 ERA and a .109 opponent batting average.

Fifth-ranked Auburn (52-9, 16-7 SEC) balances a powerful offense with a deep and talented pitching staff. The Tigers rank second in the NCAA in scoring (8.31 runs/game) and 16th in ERA (2.15).

Auburn’s 79 home runs are eighth most nationally and the Tigers have three players with more than 10 homers.

Kasey Cooper (.431 avg, 17 2B, 19 HR, 75 RBI, .906 slg, 63 BB), Emily Carosone (.406 avg, 11 2B, 12 HR, 58 RBI) and Tiffany Howard (.404 avg, 11 SB) lead one of the nation’s top offenses.

Auburn had an up and down finish to the season, losing four of the final five regular season games, including two run-rule defeats to Tennessee, before rebounding to win the SEC Tournament Championship.

Arizona and Auburn have met four times in the schools’ history, with Arizona winning three of four from the Tigers. Auburn however won the 2015 non-conference match-up between the two programs 20-2.

Copyright 2016 Arizona Athletics. All rights reserved.

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