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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball hosts Oregon in need of RBI boost

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates/Daily Wildcat #21 UA vs Utah

Arizona softball sits just one spot behind Oregon in the most recent RPI poll and is set to welcome the Ducks to Hillenbrand Stadium for a three-game series starting tonight at 7.

Oregon is not the toughest team that Arizona (31-12, 8-7 Pac-12) will play, but the series is crucial. As the postseason draws nearer, the Wildcats are making a push to be in the top eight in the RPI. They currently sit ninth, behind Oregon. Solidifying a spot in the top eight will allow head coach Mike Candrea and his team to breathe a little easier on selection Sunday.

“The goal is to get in the top eight,” Candrea. “It makes you feel a little bit better when you know you might have a chance, but I don’t like to leave it up to selection committees, that’s for sure.”

The selection committee is in charge of selecting not only which teams make the tournament, which is a sure thing for the Wildcats, but also which schools will host games. A top-eight showing means that the Wildcats would have the opportunity to play both the regional and super regional rounds of the playoffs at Hillenbrand, where they have an 18-2 record, as opposed to a 3-6 record on the road.

“It’s really important if we want to stay home,” junior Brigette Del Ponte said. “It’s a huge thing if we get to stay here and play for regionals.”

Statistically within the conference, just one or two spots separate the two teams in home runs and ERA. But the biggest test will be Arizona’s fielding percentage — currently .983, good for first in the Pac-12 and second nationally — versus the hitting ability of Oregon, whose batting average of .313 ranks 23rd in the country and fifth in the conference.

“This time of the year, everyone’s got pretty good information on you,” Candrea said. “It’s a big weekend for us because of the RPI right now. We can help ourselves dearly by playing well and winning some games.”

Despite the mounting pressure on what is one of the Wildcats’ last chances to impress the NCAA selection committee, senior Karissa Buchanan says her team is ready for the challenge.

“It’s just like any other weekend,” Buchanan said. “It’s important to win. The rankings always come up at the end. If we can win as many games as we can, it makes us feel like we’re actually getting somewhere.”

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