Arizona softball fans didn’t get to watch much softball in Hillenbrand Stadium last year. The program is making up for that now with a schedule that features multiple marquee teams coming to Tucson in 2022.
The fans will be treated to home games against Alabama and Kentucky in the first two weeks of the season before heading to the Mary Nutter Classic to face Oklahoma. It’s a schedule that allows first-year head coach Caitlin Lowe to both challenge and build confidence in her young team.
The season starts on Thursday, Feb. 10 with a game against Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds stick around for the Candrea Classic, which starts on Friday, Feb. 11 with another game between Southern Utah and Arizona.
The Candrea Classic is highlighted by the Arizona-Alabama matchup on Saturday, Feb. 12. The Crimson Tide went 52-9 last season and beat Arizona in their opening game at the Women’s College World Series.
The weekend of Feb. 18-20 features the Hillenbrand Invitational and a visit from two teams that made the postseason last year. The five-team event has Arizona facing UC Santa Barbara and Loyola Marymount and playing Long Beach State twice. LBSU had a 30-11 season before ending their year in the Regionals with losses to UCLA and Minnesota.
The main event will be Arizona vs Kentucky on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 19 after Arizona squares off against LMU. The other Wildcats went 43-16 last season, ending their run in the Super Regionals against Alabama.
The team finally hits the road for the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. from Feb. 24-26. The slate starts with Taryne Mowatt-McKinney’s first coaching stop, California Baptist. It winds up with a game against defending champions Oklahoma.
The Wildcats will bring another Arizona great home for the Bear Down Fiesta from Mar. 11-13. Kristie Fox and the UNLV Rebels come to town. The former Wildcat shortstop has been the head coach of UNLV since 2017. Her Rebels have already had two 30-win seasons in her short time in Vegas.
The Mary Nutter will be Arizona’s only nonconference appearance away from Hillenbrand prior to Pac-12 play starting. The program will run four tournaments in Tucson before heading to UCLA to start Pac-12 play on Mar. 19.
The team will head to New Mexico State for two games on Apr. 27, then return home for two games against Fresno State on Apr. 30. The games against the Aggies will be the Wildcats’ only true road games of nonconference play.
In conference play, Arizona will host Arizona State, Washington, Oregon, and Stanford. In addition to UCLA, away series will be played at Oregon State, Utah, and California.
For a team that features just two redshirt seniors, a grad transfer, and one redshirt junior, the home-heavy schedule will give them time to develop in a friendly environment. How that prepares the Wildcats for a possible Regional or Super Regional appearance on the road remains to be seen. For Arizona fans, though, it is certainly a gift.