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What we learned from Arizona softball’s series loss at Washington

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COLLEGE SOFTBALL: APR 29 Oregon State at Arizona
Peanut Martinez
Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 6 Washington and No. 7 Arizona were only able to squeeze in two games of a four-game series this weekend due to heavy rain in Seattle. The Huskies won 2-1 on Friday and 4-2 on Saturday/Sunday.

Our recaps can be found in our softball section. Here’s what we learned from the weekend.

The Pac-12 should be more cognizant of how it schedules

Not surprisingly, rain played a big factor in the series. The ending of Game 2 was delayed almost 20 hours, starting on Saturday and finally finishing on Sunday afternoon. The third and fourth games of the series were canceled altogether. So it goes in Seattle this time of year.

Meanwhile, it was 75 degrees in Tucson. Not a cloud in the sky.

Moving forward, the Pac-12 should consider giving Arizona, ASU and UCLA home-heavy schedules to begin conference play. That way fewer games are played in the Pacific Northwest in March/April and fewer games are played in the desert in May when temperatures regularly reach the 90s and even 100s.

Oregon was also at home this weekend (against Utah) while ASU was at UCLA. Thankfully the Ducks and Utes were able to squeeze in all four games even though rain was in the forecast. Data shows that the Pacific Northwest gets less and less rainfall every month from February to June. Make your softball schedules accordingly.

The offense is still struggling, but give Gabbie Plain credit

The Wildcats scored three runs in two games in Washington, meaning they have scored just six times in their last five games. They are 1-4 during that stretch, falling to 14-5 on the season. And if you throw in last Monday’s loss to No. 22 UCF, Arizona has scored six times in six games against ranked teams. Concerning.

However, Arizona faced Gabbie Plain in both games in Seattle and context is important too. Plain, one of the game’s best arms, had allowed one run or fewer in every start leading up to this series. Arizona plated two runs in game two and could have easily had more. Unfortunately, they hit 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. (Getting those timely hits continues to be a problem.)

At the same time, the teams that Plain faced earlier in the season were mid-majors and did not have All-Americans like Jessie Harper, Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza or Dejah Mulipola.

Mulipola was locked in against Plain, with two hits—including a solo homer—and four walks in seven plate appearances. Harper and APC? They went 0 for 11 with eight strikeouts. Fellow senior Malia Martinez was 0 for 5 with five Ks. The Wildcats need more from them.

The strikeout numbers are troubling. Arizona K’d 26 times in 14 innings against Plain. That’s the same number of times they struck out in three games against Florida State the weekend before. They also fanned nine times against UCF. That’s 61 strikeouts in six games against ranked teams. That means almost half of Arizona’s outs have been strikeouts.

The second-year freshmen are legit

If you wanted more evidence that second-year freshmen Sharlize Palacios and Janelle Meoño are building blocks for the future, this series provided it.

In Game 2, Palacios singled up the middle to drive in Meoño and pull Arizona even with Washington in the seventh. Meoño tripled earlier in the inning, one of three hits she had against Plain on the weekend. She also laced a double over the centerfielder’s head to lead off Game 2 but Arizona did not bring her home.

Arizona’s offensive woes caused head coach Mike Candrea to shuffle the lineup in Game 2 and it’s clear he has a lot of faith in them. Meoño and Palacios are 1 and 2 in the order.

Palacios was bumped up from fifth to second for the struggling Palomino-Cardoza while Meoño was moved up from eighth to the leadoff spot when Reyna Carranco broke her thumb a few weeks ago. She’s making a strong case to stay there, hitting a team-high .500.

Peanut can play the infield

Malia Martinez was lifted for a pinch hitter late in Game 2, allowing Peanut Martinez to show off her versatility. The redshirt junior shifted from right field to the hot corner for the last two innings, her first time playing the infield as a Wildcat.

Peanut used to play third in high school and travel ball, and perhaps she will compete at that position next season when Malia will no longer be in the program. It says a lot that Candrea was willing to put Peanut there in a tight game against a top-10 team.

Freshman Aris Carroll is another option at third base next season. She was a top-100 recruit but only has one at-bat this season. Her twin sister Sophia will be the frontrunner to replace Harper at shortstop.

UCLA and Washington are 1 and 2 in the Pac-12

Earlier in the season I wrote that Arizona was better than Washington. The two programs have gone in different directions since then. UW has won 12 in a row while the Wildcats are struggling just to win a game.

UW not only has a spectacular ace in Plain who, so far, is handling a big workload well, but their lineup is hitting for a higher average and for more power than Arizona’s. That’s surprising.

UCLA is just downright ridiculous. They have the best lineup (with two Olympians!) and best pitcher (Rachel Garcia) in the conference, maybe even the country. Plus their No. 2—Megan Faraimo—might be the third-best pitcher in the Pac-12 behind Plain and Garcia.

The Bruins won all four games vs. No. 11 ASU this weekend, including a run-rule victory in Sunday’s series finale. It’s hard to imagine anyone taking a series from the defending champs.