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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball prepared for next challenge against the Texas Longhorns

Arizona+pitcher+Nancy+Bowling+pitches+during+the+Wildcat+Invitational%2C+Feb.+18.+Arizona+is+currently+15-1.
Pearl Dixon

Arizona pitcher Nancy Bowling pitches during the Wildcat Invitational, Feb. 18. Arizona is currently 15-1.

Arizona softball returns home to Tucson this weekend as the Wildcats open up a three-game set against the Texas Longhorns at Hillenbrand Stadium. No. 6-ranked Arizona enters the matchup with the Big 12 powerhouse with a record of 15-1 after going 4-1 in the Mary Nutter Classic last weekend.

The Wildcats’ first loss of the 2017 season came at the hands of No. 1 Florida State on the final day of the tournament. Arizona senior Danielle O’Toole held the Seminoles to one run, but the lineup was unable to come through for their ace.

“We had the pitching,” said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. “I thought O’Toole did a wonderful job, gave us a chance to win. We had one mistake defensively that cost us, and [we] couldn’t get the timely hits when we needed it, but hey, that’s the way softball is.”

Falling to the No. 1 team in the country by one run counts as a loss, but the Wildcats have plenty to be excited about after a 4-1 weekend. Arizona offense continued to produce, outscoring their opponents 48-7 during the weekend.

While Arizona played tougher competition than in the previous two weeks, they were ready for the step up in competition. With their lone loss coming in a pitching duel against the No. 1 school in the country, O’Toole said she wasn’t disappointed, she was excited.

“I don’t think I have felt that way in a while about a team,” O’Toole said when asked about losing to Florida State. “I think there is a good competitive nature going on right now. I think we look super good and have some things to work on, but other than that were good to go.”

Seniors Mo Mercado and O’Toole picked up Pac-12 honors this week, with Mercado collecting the national player of the week award as well.

O’Toole fanned 23 batters and picked up two more wins, bringing her season total to eight. Mercado had a batting average above .800 and knocked in 11 RBIs in five games during the Mary Nutter Classic.

The shortstop, known for her defensive play and durability, has put together solid offensive showings in the opening weeks of the season. She is currently second on the team with 21 hits, third with RBIs (17) and is currently hitting .488.

“I’ve work on my preparation a little bit, worked on more tilt in my swing and changed a few drills,” Mercado said. “It’s nice to have more offensive players, so that stress of having a bad game is lifted because I know my teammates can help pick me up.”

Texas comes in after a disappointing conclusion to the Mary Nutter Classic. After winning their first four games, they failed to close out the tournament on a good note dropping the last two games, both at the hands of Pac-12 schools. The Longhorns followed a sloppy defeat against ASU with a disappointing effort against the Washington Huskies.

The Longhorns bring in an ace of their own to try and match up with O’Toole this weekend. Tiarra Davis has been lights out for Texas so far. The senior was named Big-12 pitcher of the week after the Mary Nutter Classic, as Davis went 2-0 against ranked teams Missouri and Tennessee.

Looking past the team’s star pitcher, the Longhorns bring a balanced offensive attack to the table. Mickenzi Krpec is known for swinging for the fences early and often. She is the team leader in slugging percentage and ranks in the top five in most, if not all, of the major hitting categories. Kelli Hanzel and Stephanie Wong are another pair of skilled batters in the Austin-based school’s lineup.

Big-12 schools have had trouble with Pac-12 teams so far in 2017. After struggling against ASU and Washington, the Longhorns head to Tucson for their first true road series of the season. Arizona takes on Texas this weekend beginning on Friday, March 3 at 6 p.m. MST.


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