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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Pieces in place for Arizona softball to succeed

Arizona+softball+outfielder+Eva+Watson+%2814%29+hits+the+ball+during+Arizonas+9-1+victory+over+San+Jose+State+on+Feb.+14+at+Hillenbrand+Stadium.+Watson+and+the+Wildcats+have+the+necessary+pieces+to+contend%3B+its+all+about+making+them+fit+together.
Tanner Clinch

Arizona softball outfielder Eva Watson (14) hits the ball during Arizona’s 9-1 victory over San Jose State on Feb. 14 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Watson and the Wildcats have the necessary pieces to contend; it’s all about making them fit together.

All the ingredients look to be in place for Arizona softball. Now, the Wildcats just need to mix them together. In going 1-3 against ranked opponents over the weekend at the Mary Nutter Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., it was the details that came back to haunt Arizona.

By giving up big hits and not producing at the plate with runners in scoring position, the No. 13 Wildcats traveled back to Tucson feeling unsatisfied. Each game was there for the taking, but the little mistakes added up.

In a 5-2 loss to No. 11 Kentucky, Arizona’s bats didn’t wake up until it was too late. The Wildcats were held scoreless for over six innings and only accumulated four hits in the game.

It was the same story against No. 14 LSU and No. 18 Missouri. An offense that is supposed to be tops in the nation just couldn’t muster enough firepower, resulting in a pair of one-run losses.

The Wildcats stranded nine runners in the defeat to LSU, and against Missouri the UA had the tying runner on third in the top of the seventh inning. One more hit here or there and Arizona could be sitting at 13-1 instead of 11-3.

In another one-run game, this time a 5-4 win against No. 4 Oklahoma, the Wildcats got the clutch hit with a walk-off home run from Kellie Fox. Arizona also managed to score just enough in a 7-6 win over unranked Northwestern.

On the mound, the situation reversed itself in the three losses. Arizona’s pitchers were solid for most of the tournament, but against the nation’s top teams, one mistake in location is often the difference.

Freshman Trish Parks learned that the hard way against Kentucky, giving up four earned runs in three innings. Parks and her teammates will only mature from such lapses.

While it may be a confidence-booster to beat opponents like many of the teams Arizona has faced at home this year, but to grow into an elite level team, the Wildcats have to match themselves with the country’s best.

By keeping each Classic game competitive, it is possible that Arizona will have the potential to join the upper echelon. There isn’t need to worry about long-term implications, however, when it’s only February.

The season statistics, inflated with games against inferior opponents, only offer so much of a story. Arizona’s team batting average of .374 and collective 2.02 ERA should both serve as signs of encouragement.

In fact, the Wildcats’ current nine-hole hitter, Eva Watson, is leading the group with a .532 average. Depth in the batting order won’t be this team’s downfall.

Similarly, Arizona’s rotation is as deep as any in recent memory. All four pitchers boast an ERA under 2.40, and each have pitched 14 or more innings.

The Wildcats now return home to face a slate of teams it should have little trouble taking care of before going back on the road to play another group of elite opponents.

The gains Arizona makes between now and then will be telling.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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