The Arizona Wildcats earned the No. 14 overall seed in the 2018 NCAA Softball Tournament, and will be hosting the Tucson Regional this Friday through Sunday.
They will be joined by Saint Francis (PA), Mississippi State, and North Dakota State. A look at UA’s three opponents can be found below. We will have an in-depth look at Arizona later.
The winner of the Tucson Regional will likely face No. 3 UCLA in Westwood in Super Regionals. Arizona was swept by the Bruins in Tucson during the regular season.
Saint Francis (PA) — (39-17, 19-0 Northeast)
Team ERA: 2.47
Runs scored per game: 5.5
Fielding percentage: .965
Saint Francis participated in the Tucson Regional last year, where it beat New Mexico State between two losses to South Carolina.
The Red Flash are always known for their power, and this year is no exception — SFU is second in the country in home runs per game. Arizona, which has been referring to itself as Home Run U lately, is fourth.
In all, the Red Flash have launched 83 homers to Arizona’s 73. Those two teams will battle Friday at 8:30 p.m. MST.
SFU has won 19 straight and went undefeated in the Northeast Conference for the second straight year.
The Red Flash have three players with 11 or more homers, including Madison Cabell (19) and Hayley Norton (15) who have each driven in more than 50 runs. SFU is the only team in Division I with seven players with six or more homers, showing its power up and down the lineup.
The Red Flash have only used two pitchers this season, Abby Trahan and Adrian Smith.
Trahan, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, is 28-11 with 2.48 ERA in 248.1 innings. The right-hander has 185 strikeouts and is holding opponents to a .215 average.
Smith, another sophomore right-hander, is 11-6 with a 2.46 ERA.
SFU is 1-8 against tournament teams, with the lone win coming against Drake on March 10.
The Red Flash have only played eight games at home this season.
Mississippi State — (36-21, 7-17 SEC)
Team ERA: 2.00
Runs scored per game: 5.04
Fielding percentage: .957
All 13 SEC teams made the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season, and only one had a worse record than the Bulldogs, who lost five of their last six in the regular season.
But MSU has the SEC Freshman of the Year in catcher Mia Davidson, who is hitting .371/.444./.770 and leads the conference in slugging, homers (18) and total bases (137). Those numbers landed her a spot on the SEC All-First Team.
MSU is fifth in the SEC in ERA (2.00) and seventh in batting average (.286), but those numbers drop to 3.49 and .233 in conference play, respectively.
MSU has committed 71 errors, which is 16 more than any other team in the SEC.
The Bulldogs have a solid ace in Holly Ward (15-7, 1.33), who has not allowed more than two earned runs in a start since April 1.
Only Florida has tallied more strikeouts than MSU (396) in the SEC this season, and Ward has fanned 164 in 168 innings.
MSU is a regular in the NCAA Tournament, making it 14 times since 2000, but it has never reached Super Regionals. Last season, the Bulldogs lost in the Salt Lake City Regional.
MSU will open against North Dakota State on Friday at 6 p.m. MST on ESPN2.
North Dakota State — (33-17, 10-3 Summit)
Team ERA: 2.29
Runs scored per game: 3.74
Fielding percentage: .975
This will be NDSU’s ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last 10 years.
The Bison are 9-16 in eight previous trips and 5-8 over the past four seasons. In 2009, NDSU won the Norman Regional and advanced to the Tempe Super Regional.
NDSU’s Jacquelyn Sertic — also known as “The Scientist” — is the Summit League Pitcher of the Year, which is the second time she’s won the nomination.
The senior is 25-9 with a 1.62 in 216.1 innings and has punched out a whopping 303 batters. She had 276 punchouts before her conference tournament, which was the fourth-most in the nation.
Sertic threw a no-hitter to lead the Bison into the Summit League championship game, and there, she surrendered the last 15 batters she faced to capture the Bison’s fifth straight Summit League title.
NDSU is a light-hitting team, batting .260/.345/.370 with only 49 stolen bases and 23 homers. It only averages 3.74 runs per game, which is almost 200th in the country.
But NDSU’s defense is tremendous, committing just 32 errors all season, good for a .975 fielding percentage. That’s a top-20 mark in the country and the best in the Tucson Regional.
The Bison have allowed just one run in their last six games. They are 7-10 against teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Like Sertic, second baseman Zoe Stavrou is a member of the All-Summit First Team, batting a team-high .326 with three homers, 14 doubles, and 25 RBI.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire