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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball returns home for top five matchup against Huskies

March+4%2C+2017.++Freshman+1st+baseman+Jessie+Harper+%2819%29+during+the+Wildcats+2-1+walkoff+win+over+the+Texas+Longhorns.++Hillenbrand+Memorial+Stadium%2C+Tucson%2C+AZ.
Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics
March 4, 2017. Freshman 1st baseman Jessie Harper (19) during the Wildcats 2-1 walkoff win over the Texas Longhorns. Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, Tucson, AZ.

After two weeks on the road, No. 4 Arizona softball returns home to Hillenbrand to face off against No. 5 Washington in a three-game set this weekend. The Wildcats find themselves in another matchup with a top-10 team, however, this time Arizona will have to play more than just a single game against their opponent.

The Wildcats return home, where they have yet to lose a game all season, riding on the back of a 14-game win streak after their heart breaking loss to Florida State earlier in the year.

Ever since that loss, Arizona has steam rolled every team in their path, including the defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners.

Freshman Jessie Harper is playing at such a high level that it’s hard to believe she’s only a freshman. The California native picked up Pac-12 player and freshman of the week honors after going 7-14 with two home runs and helping Arizona go 5-0 last week.

Players like Harper are clicking on all cylinders, making this one of the best times for the Wildcats to face off with a top five opponent.

Both teams in the nation opened up Pac-12 play the best way they could, sweeping their opponents with relative ease last weekend. This series will be a full showcase for softball fans to see first hand with two of the top offenses and pitching staffs in the country. Arizona Head coach Mike Candrea said Arizona has to be prepared for Washington’s all-around attack.

“There a good team,” Candrea said. “Very balanced both offensively and pitching wise, so we’re going to have to play well and I think its going to be like this from here on out,” Candrea said.

The Huskies roll into town having won 16 of their last 17 games. Arizona aces Danielle O’Toole and Taylor McQuillin will be countered by the Huskies’ Taran Alvelo and Samantha Manti. ­­

Alvelo may only be a sophomore but make no mistake, her playing style is far from that of your average underclassmen pitcher. She’s tied atop the Pac-12 wins’ column with O’Toole (14) and the conference leader in getting batters to strikeout looking (32). Candrea noted they teams attitude when facing talented pitchers.

“I think the biggest thing is pitch selection and trying to keep it simple. So you’ve really got to be prepared for that, plate discipline will be extremely important as will are ability to do the little things,” Candrea said.

On the offensive end, Huskies catcher Morganne Flores leads the Pac-12 in RBIs with 34 and her eight home runs have her tied for third in the conference. Sis Bates, Flores’s partner in crime, will look to help out her teammate and frustrate Arizona’s pitchers. The freshman also finds her name all over the Pac-12 leaderboard. Her .430 batting average is just enough to edge out Mo Mercado, who leads Arizona with a .429 average in Pac-12 play.

Hillenbrand stadium is home to the only top five matchup in the country this weekend. With three teams in the Pac-12 ranked within the top five overall, taking this early series over the Huskies could have implications in the conference later this season.

The series begins on Friday at 5 p.m. and can be seen on Pac-12 Networks.


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