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The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball hits road for Utah series

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Arizona utility Katiyana Mauga (34) hits a foul ball during Arizona’s 9-8 loss to Washington at Hillenbrand Stadium on April 11. Mauga and the Wildcats take their bats on the road to take on Utah this weekend.

Arizona softball goes on the road this weekend to face Utah in a three-game series, beginning Friday. The No. 16 Arizona Wildcats have won six of their past seven games behind an offense that ranks among the top in the nation. The UA has also won eight consecutive road matchups.

For Arizona to continue that momentum in Salt Lake City and maintain its chances of winning the Pac-12 Conference, the lineup will need to once again lead the way. The Wildcats rank second nationally with a .373 batting average, and their 8.23 runs per game ranks them fifth in the country.

“Let’s thank the good lord that we are a good hitting team, because we’ve needed the runs,” Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea said.

The UA is getting things done in all facets, whether that’s getting on base, hitting home runs or capitalizing off opposing pitchers’ mistakes. Every position player is batting .300 or higher, led by redshirt senior shortstop Kellie Fox, whose .424 average is among the highest in the Pac-12. When it comes to power, outfielder Katiyana Mauga and catcher Chelsea Goodacre lead the conference in homers with 19 and 17, respectively.

The Wildcats’ lineup could benefit from the high elevation of Salt Lake City this weekend, which, according to Candrea, helps the ball travel farther.

“The altitude really makes a little bit of a difference because the ball just hangs,” Candrea said.

On the flip side, that could spell trouble for the Arizona pitching staff, which may already be limited if Trish Parks is unable to play. Parks, who has thrown the second-most innings behind Michelle Floyd, was taken out of a game last weekend due to soreness in her pitching arm.

“She’s very tentative,” Candrea said. “I’m hopeful she’ll pitch [this weekend], but it’s hard to tell.”

Siera Phillips will likely receive a good amount of work on the mound if Parks is unable to go. Phillips made her first career start on Sunday and left Candrea with a favorable impression.

“She’s, number one, a lefty, which is good, and number two, she’s got pretty good off-speed,” Candrea said. “The key to her is to be able to get ahead in the count and throw her off-speed pitch to keep people off balance.”

On paper, the Utah Utes shouldn’t pose much of a challenge with their bats, as they rank last in the Pac-12 with a .286 average. Utah is, however, batting .352 over the last nine games. The Utes most recently swept Oregon State in a three-game road series.

Kate Dickman leads Utah with a .420 batting average and six home runs. As for pitching, the Utes rank third in the Pac-12 with a 2.72 ERA, an entire run better than Arizona.

“They’re a really good hitting team with good defense,” Mauga said. “This will be another tough weekend, so we just need to come out fired up.”

All three games of the series will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks, with opening pitch on Friday scheduled for 4 p.m.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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