Arizona softball is headed down the stretch with hopes of getting to a 35th straight NCAA tournament. The next stop is Salt Lake City where the Wildcats will face the Utah Utes (21-20, 4-8).
The two teams will start their series Friday at 4 p.m. MST/PDT with the game airing on Pac-12 Arizona and Pac-12 Mountain. What are some keys to success for the Wildcats as the regular season starts to wind down?
The schedule lightens up
The Pac-12 did Arizona no favors with the early-season schedule. The Wildcats have now played five league series. Every opponent has been ranked at some point this season. The Utes will be the first team on the schedule that has not been ranked.
Winning the next three series—a list that includes not only the Utes but also Colorado and Stanford—is not only possible it’s required if the Wildcats hope to continue their postseason streak.
Arizona is currently ranked No. 37 in RPI. Stanford is No. 33, Utah comes in at No. 44, and California sits at No. 47. A good run against the other three gives Arizona a fighting chance.
The Wildcats also have a chance to move up in the conference standings. Arizona currently sits last with a 4-11 record. Utah sits just above at 4-8 and Oregon is in 10th with a 5-10 record. The Ducks have yet to play UCLA and ASU.
Allie Skaggs revisits her swing
Sophomore Allie Skaggs patrols second base and is one of the best hitters in the conference. Skaggs sits just behind teammate Carlie Scupin in the Pac-12 home run race. Scupin is second in the league with 15 and Skaggs is tied for third with 14.
It’s not just about the power, either. Skaggs also has one of the best batting averages on the team. Her .375 average is second on the Wildcats’ roster to leadoff hitter Jasmine Perezchica. That is good enough for 15th in the Pac-12.
She believes it’s because of the work she’s done on her swing.
“I’ve been working on letting go of my other hand and I finally did that today and I guess it worked great,” Skaggs said after the Wildcats’ doubleheader.
It certainly worked out in that game. Skaggs tied a program record with three home runs.
“I watch a lot of swings,” Skaggs said. “I watched MLB. I’ll watch a ton of some other college softball. I see great hitters that do it, like Shar. She’s getting ahold of a bunch. She’s doing the same thing. So I’m like, ‘You know what, maybe I’ll try it. I don’t know, it could work.’ I roll over a lot. Okay, so let’s try to let go and see if that helps. And today it felt great. I felt comfortable. Just watching a lot of swings. I love studying swings. I think that’s my favorite.”
Janelle Meoño is improving
Janelle Meoño has been out since Arizona’s Mar. 9 game against North Dakota. A stress fracture in her foot had the sophomore in a boot for over six weeks. The boot is gone. Meoño wore a lighter brace on her lower leg at Tuesday’s doubleheader and seemed to be walking normally.
“She is working into different practice scenarios,” said head coach Caitlin Lowe. “So, we’ll see...how it goes, and we’ll just kind of evaluate her week-to-week.”