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What we learned from Arizona softball’s series loss at Florida State

The Wildcats are struggling against high-level competition again

Sharlize Palacios
Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The No. 2-ranked Arizona softball team dropped two of three against No. 15 Florida State to fall to 14-3 heading into Pac-12 play. Up next is a four-game road series at No. 8 Washington.

Before we get there, let’s recap what we learned from UA’s time in Tallahassee.

The offense is struggling against high-level teams again

Arizona has faced three teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in the NFCA Coaches Poll: Oregon State, UCF and Florida State. In five games against them, the Wildcats are 2-3, have scored a total of six runs, and have been shut out twice—once by UCF and once by FSU.

In their other 12 games, Arizona went 12-0 while averaging 9.4 runs and 2.4 home runs per game. Obviously a dip in production is expected against better competition, but that’s steep.

The FSU series was really ugly. Arizona scored three runs in three games and hit .227 with only four extra-base hits—three doubles and a Dejah Mulipola solo homer. They couldn’t come through in the clutch, going just 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position in the final two games.

But maybe the most alarming stat is that Arizona struck out 26 times against FSU and nine times against UCF. Before those games, their most strikeouts in a game was five (against Oregon State). That tells you Arizona’s approach and/or timing was off.

It’s not like the Seminoles are that good in the circle. They entered the series with a 2.83 ERA, which would rank eighth (of nine) in the Pac-12. They certainly don’t have a pitcher like Gabbie Plain, who Arizona will see a lot of in Washington next weekend.

There is no reason to panic, though. Arizona is loaded with talent and we have seen this movie before.

In 2019, the Wildcats were 1-8 against top-10 teams before they won two of three against UCLA, the eventual national champions, in Westwood to close the regular season. Arizona then went unbeaten in Regionals and Super Regionals on their way to the Women’s College World Series, where they knocked off Washington in their opener—the same UW team that had swept UA in the regular season.

Freshmen are still freshmen

As good as Arizona’s freshman class is, it’s going to have some hiccups and will have to make adjustments as teams start to adjust to them.

Carlie Scupin went 1 for 8 with a single and five strikeouts in the FSU series after only striking out twice in Arizona’s first 14 games. Allie Skaggs went 1 for 7 with three strikeouts, a single and a walk.

She had a nightmare game in the series finale, striking out twice and hitting into a double play that allowed FSU to escape a bases-loaded jam. She was also called for obstruction on a stolen base attempt, though that was a really questionable call.

Arizona misses Reyna Carranco

Carranco often gets overshadowed by the rest of the star-studded senior class, but a series like this shows how important her consistency is. She had six hits in three games against FSU in 2019 and Arizona could have used some of that this weekend.

Plus, if Carranco was healthy, Arizona would be able to move Janelle Meoño, who is hitting .500, back to the bottom of the lineup and it wouldn’t be the black hole that it was in this series.

Carranco has been out for a little over two weeks now with a broken thumb and it’s unclear when she will be back at second base.

Sharlize Palacios didn’t miss a beat

Don’t blame the offensive struggles on Sharlize. Palacios had four hits in the series and the game-winning RBI double in Friday’s 1-0 pitching duel. The redshirt freshman has been consistent all season. She’s hitting .388 with four homers and has only gone hitless four times this season—and never in back-to-back games.

Palacios has been so steady that she was moved up to fifth in the lineup, leapfrogging the hot-and-cold Malia Martinez.

Mariah Lopez had the outing she needed

Lopez hadn’t looked that sharp to start the season, allowing at least one homer (and some other hard-hit balls) in each of her first three starts. Then she walked six batters in her fourth start.

Neither was an issue in Tallahassee. In her three-hit shutout Friday, she issued just one walk and none of FSU’s hits went for extra bases.

Alyssa Denham, who had one bad start and one good start at FSU, is being treated like Arizona’s ace right now, but it will be interesting to see how the innings are divvied up moving forward. So far, Denham has thrown 43.2 innings and Lopez is at 28.1. It was closer to 50-50 in 2020.

Either way, the pitching staff is in good shape. Arizona is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in ERA (1.13).