The once-elite Arizona softball program has failed to reach the Women’s College World Series for eight straight years, and a lack of star pitching has been one reason for its shortcomings.
Maybe Marissa Schuld will be the recruit who can change UA’s fortunes.
After being named the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year for the second straight year, Schuld picked up another honor Tuesday when she was named FloSoftball’s National Player of the Year.
The Phoenix native led Pinnacle High School to the 6A state championship as a senior, posting gaudy numbers as both a pitcher and batter.
In the circle, Schuld went 11-1 with a 0.74 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 76 innings. In the batter’s box, she hit .574 with 16 home runs and 57 RBI.
She will join the Wildcats for the 2019 season.
“I think she has a good chance of being really good because she’s very meticulous,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said on National Signing Day. “She’s one of those kids that has a very strong passion of being highly successful. I think she’s going to work really hard and will continue to develop under Taryne (Mowatt). She spins the ball well and can do a lot of good things.”
How much, and how quickly, Schuld makes an impact at the UA remains to be seen, but the Wildcats need to improve in the circle if they are going to return to Oklahoma City.
Arizona was fifth in the Pac-12 in ERA in 2018, as its 1-2 punch of Taylor McQuillin (1.65 ERA) and Alyssa Denham (1.85 ERA) was good, but not quite good enough to place in the upper echelon of the conference.
UCLA, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona State did reach the WCWS — UW was the runner-up — and they all boasted some of the game’s best pitchers.
Arizona was 2-13 against those schools and they all return their aces, so the Wildcats will have to find a way to level the playing field.
McQuillin and Denham are both returning in 2019, as are most of UA’s key hitters, so perhaps Schuld can be the missing piece.