At first blush, it would appear the University of Arizona softball team is about to romp through its first game at the Women’s College World Series (WCWS), scheduled for tomorrow morning.
The Wildcats have won 47 games this season and are enjoying one of their strongest postseason performances in recent memory. In the five games played in the regional and super regional, the Cats have outscored their opponents 33-8, had a team batting average of .366 (best in the nation), and scored better than six runs a game (second in the nation) during those games.
But, before Arizona fans get too giddy with the excitement of the moment, a harsh dose of reality must be considered. Their first game is against the Washington Huskies.
That’s the team that has won 50 games this season and swept the Wildcats in three straight regular-season games just three weeks ago. The Huskies also powered through their first five postseason games, allowing just one run over that span.
The good news: The last time the two teams met in the postseason, in 2010, Washington had also won the three times they met in the regular season. But Arizona put those games in the rear-view mirror and went on to eliminate Washington at the WCWS.
Better yet, Arizona sports fans, your Wildcats hold a 7-1 advantage over the eight times the two teams have met in the postseason.
Sixth-seeded Arizona really needed this trip to Oklahoma. Washington, a No. 3 seed, is making its third straight WCWS appearance, but the Wildcats haven’t made it this far in almost a decade. And that’s a huge disappointment for a program that had made 22 appearances prior to this season. Their 23 trips to OKC ranks second only to UCLA, which has been there 29 times.
Along the way, Arizona has won eight national titles — all under current head coach, Mike Candrea, who is wrapping up his 34th season in charge of the tradition-rich Pac-12 program.
This year, he is blessed with power at the plate and talent in the circle. The pitching staff boasts a combined 1.59 ERA, fifth in the nation and one of only two teams at the WCWS that ranks in the top 10 in that category; Oklahoma is the other.
And the Cats also rank in the top 10 in two other categories: scoring (7th) and fielding percentage (9th).
It has been a long dry spell since the last WCWS appearance, but the national-title drought extends even farther back. It was 2007 when Arizona brought home a national championship.
However, with all the talent Candrea has this year, it isn’t hard to imagine this squad bringing back a ninth crown.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)