The Arizona softball team could be without one of its top players when it begins NCAA Tournament play on Friday against New Mexico State.
Arizona center fielder Alyssa Palomino is “day to day” with a left knee injury, a UA spokesman said Thursday before Arizona’s open practice.
The injury appears to be fairly significant as Palomino was on crutches and wearing a heavy brace on her left leg as she watched the Wildcats practice from the side.
Losing Palomino would be a major blow for the Wildcats, as she has started in all 55 games this season, batting .302/.408/.711 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs while providing stellar defense in the outfield.
Last week, Palomino was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team and the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team.
Palomino redshirted last season after tearing her ACL in fall practice.
“There’s been ups and downs, but that’s what this game is all about,” Palomino said Monday. “It’s definitely a ride that I’ve never experienced before and it’s a long season.”
Senior outfielder Eva Watson was playing center field in Palomino’s place during practice on Thursday.
Watson has mostly been a pinch runner this season, but has ample experience. The Victoria, Virginia native started 38 games for Arizona last season and has started in 63 in total with the Wildcats in four years.
The left-handed slap hitter has a career .317 batting average, though she is only hitting .117 this season in 18 at-bats.
Arizona could also turn to Alexis Dotson if Palomino is forced to miss extended time. Dotson, a senior, started in all 61 games for the Wildcats last season, hitting .287/.312/.387 with 23 RBIs.
Dotson has started in three games this season, batting .333 in 18 at-bats. Like Watson, she has primarily been used as a pinch runner.
With or without Palomino, the Wildcats are set to take on New Mexico State on Friday at 6:30 p.m. PT at Hillenbrand Stadium as they begin their trek to reach the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2010.
South Carolina and Saint Francis (PA) play at 4 p.m. PST to kick off the Tucson Regional.
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