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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Pitching struggles for UA softball on road yet again

With a week to go in the regular season, Arizona softball doesn’t have the shape of a team that will compete for a spot in the Women’s College World Series later this month.

Facing its top competition in the past two months, Arizona struggled to match No. 7 UCLA in all aspects.

The biggest concern has to be on the mound, where the Wildcats still don’t have a go-to pitcher who can shut down good-hitting lineups.

As has been the theme the last few weeks, Arizona sent out all three of its pitchers over the weekend, with Michelle Floyd getting a bit more work than her counterparts. Floyd, the most experienced hurler, had trouble consistently hitting her spots. She yielded a total of 11 walks in a collective 7.2 innings throughout the weekend. A pair of those freebies set up UCLA’s go-ahead rally in game two of the series, which turned out to be a 6-3 comeback victory for the Bruins.

The Wildcats’ younger pair of pitchers, Trish Parks and Siera Phillips, did not fare better.

Parks also struggled with accuracy — she walked in the walk-off run in the series opener — while Phillips allowed three runs in each of her two short outings.

Now that the NCAA Regionals are right around the corner, there is greater urgency for the UA’s pitching to come into form.

It’s unlikely, perhaps impossible, that the rotation can go from shaky to sturdy overnight, but that’s not necessarily the goal. Rather, the Wildcats need a steady enough presence on the mound just to keep the offense within striking distance.

Of course, that means the lineup has to do its part.

In Los Angeles, that was not so much the case, as Arizona’s statistically overpowering offense was mostly held in check.

Heading into the series, the Wildcats led nation with a gaudy .371 batting average, but Arizona hit just .229 against a strong UCLA pitching staff.

Almost all of the UA’s scoring came from home runs. While that’s not necessarily a negative, Arizona could not once muster a true rally.

For an offense that is so dominant on paper, the Wildcats haven’t looked the part facing top pitching talent. That too could come back to haunt them in postseason play.

As if Arizona coach Mike Candrea didn’t have enough on his plate heading into the final weekend, Arizona’s fielding was also uncharacteristically poor over the weekend.

In the series finale, a 15-7 loss, 11 of UCLA’s runs were unearned. The Bruins made the most of six UA errors, five of them committed by senior shortstop Kellie Fox, who is usually reliable on the field.

Even if the abundance of errors is just an anomaly, the Wildcats should not be having trouble with fundamentals in May.

Arizona now has one regular season series left, and it’s a big one. The designers of the Pac-12 Conference schedule saved the toughest for last, as No. 3 Oregon comes to Tucson for a three-game series beginning Thursday.

The Ducks have been the class of the conference all season, and with a 44-5 overall record, they should be heavy favorites to make the World Series.

The Wildcats could not ask for a better measuring stick to compare themselves to this late in the year, but the results from this coming weekend, like the UCLA series, may not be what they want to hear.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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