The Arizona Wildcats softball team is 8-4 through the first four weekends of Pac-12 play. With four weekends to go, they'll get to showcase their stuff on National TV against the UCLA Bruins as they make a late push to host an NCAA Regional.
- Saturday - 2 PM PT, ESPN2
- Sunday - 2 PM PT, ESPN2
- Monday - 7 PM PT, Pac-12 Networks
Heading into this showdown, Arizona (31-12, 8-4 Pac-12) is ranked 17th in the country, while UCLA (28-12-1, 9-4-1 Pac-12) is 15th, making this an extremely important three games when trying to decide the 16 regional hosts in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona also travels to No. 5 Oregon next weekend, giving them a huge six game stretch to end April.
The Wildcats are hot, having won each of their last eight games, and have led in all but eight innings in that stretch. If they are able to extend the winning streak to nine, it would be their longest winning streak in the middle of conference season since 2008, a year that ended in Oklahoma City.
In recent years, Arizona has been an offensive juggernaut. But this weekend, it is UCLA that comes in with the better numbers at the plate. The Bruins are hitting .322 to the Wildcats' .306 average. This of course leads to more runs (6.37 to 5.93). The two teams have slugging percentages of .498 though, which should make for an interesting weekend, considering two of these games will be played in 90 degree weather.
The hot, dry air could impact the Wildcats' pitching staff, which has recorded a conference-leading 2.38 ERA this season. Danielle O'Toole's 1.97 mark puts her second in the conference, and her 18 wins are the most in the Pac-12, 17th-most nationally. UCLA's pitching staff has not been nearly as effective, posting the 8th-best ERA in the nine team conference.
This series will come down to the Arizona pitching staff holding the UCLA bats in check, as well as the Wildcat offense taking advantage of the subpar Bruins staff in the dry, afternoon Tucson air. This seems to be a favorable matchup for Arizona, but also looks like it will be a bit of a shootout, at least in the first two games. Should be a good time at Hillenbrand.