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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball hosts top-ranked Oregon Ducks

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Jesus Barrera

Arizona softball catcher Chelsea Goodacre (77) runs home to be greeted by shortstop Kellie Fox (29), utility Chelsea Suitos (3) and other teammates during Arizona’s 22-5 win against Stanford at Hillenbrand Stadium on April 26. Goodacre, Fox, Suitos and Hallie Wilson will play in the last home series of their careers this weekend.

Fresh off a disappointing three-game series against UCLA, Arizona softball has quite the challenging weekend ahead of it as it hosts top-ranked Oregon for senior weekend.

UCLA swept Arizona for the second consecutive season in Los Angeles and exposed Arizona’s pitching woes. The Wildcats put runs on the board in each game but couldn’t keep the Bruins offense from putting up numbers.

For the Ducks, they have the opportunity to claim the Pac-12 Conference regular season title with a sweep over the Wildcats, as they currently hold a one-game lead over UCLA.

Oregon’s success offensively is quite similar to the Wildcats’, as the Ducks boast a team batting average of .370, which is second in the nation, compared to the UA’s .364.

The real difference between both teams has been the consistency of the Oregon pitching staff. Oregon’s pitchers hold a team ERA of 2.34 compared to Arizona’s 4.09.

The Ducks have won 14 straight games and will match their longest winning streak in six seasons if they add one more win to that mark.

Individually, many of the Ducks stand out. Freshman Jenna Lilley is second in the Pac-12 with a .550 on-base percentage and fourth in the conference with a .441 batting average. Janie Takeda follows Lilley in the batting average category with .439. Freshman Gwen Svekis ranks second in the conference with a .843 slugging percentage.

Oregon pitcher Cheridan Hawkins ranks eighth in the NCAA and leads the Pac-12 with a 1.18 ERA, boasting nine shutouts and 9.4 strikeouts per seven innings.

The senior class the Wildcats will face is Oregon’s winningest, one that has won 195 games over the past four seasons.

The Wildcats will honor the team’s four seniors in catcher Chelsea Goodacre, first baseman Hallie Wilson, shortstop Kellie Fox and utility player Chelsea Suitos.

There will be a senior ceremony following the second game of the series.

Fox has had quite a successful senior campaign, going into the series with the highest team average of starters with a .403 batting average and 13 home runs in 159 at-bats.

Suitos has a .365 average and has stolen 17 bases on 17 attempts this year. Goodacre is tied for team leads in home runs at 22 and RBIs at 79 with Katiyana Mauga, and Wilson is hitting .388 and was drafted by the USSSA Pride in the NPF College Draft.

The Wildcats and Ducks are no strangers on the field. Arizona leads the all-time series record 81-23, but the Ducks have won the last four series. The last meeting between the two teams came last May when Oregon beat Arizona 14-3. The Ducks clinched their second straight Pac-12 title last season after routing the Wildcats.

Arizona’s offense will have a tough battle ahead of them, as Oregon has not allowed more than three runs in a game over its last seven outings.

If the Wildcats want to prove they comprise an elite team, they may have to start with their pitching. By finding outs on the mound, the Wildcats will prove they can compete and pitch against some of the nation’s finest.

All three games will be aired live, with the first two on the Pac-12 Networks and the finale on ESPNU.

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Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.

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