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Arizona softball heads into season ranked No. 15 by D1 Softball

COLLEGE SOFTBALL: MAR 31 Cal at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Feb. 10, Arizona softball will open the 2022 season against Southern Utah. The Wildcats will do it as D1 Softball’s fifteenth-ranked team according to the preseason rankings released by the publication on Monday.

Arizona advanced to the Women’s College World Series in 2021 where it was eliminated in losses to Alabama and Florida State. It was the second straight WCWS appearance for the Wildcats after getting back to the sport’s biggest tournament in 2019. The event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The team ended the season with a 41-15 record and ranked No. 7 by D1 Softball. Arizona was also ranked seventh in the USA TODAY Sports/NFCA coaches poll and the ESPN/USA Softball poll when the year wrapped up in June.

This year, the Wildcats will be adapting to a lot of changes. No longer in the dugout is head coach Mike Candrea, who built the program over the past 36 years. In his place is his protege and former Arizona star Caitlin Lowe. Also departed is the class of seven super seniors who returned last season for one more run.

Arizona expects to be led in the circle by redshirt senior Hanah Bowen and in the batter’s box by redshirt sophomore Sharlize Palacios as the team works to maintain the excellence embodied by players who called Rita Hillenbrand Stadium home for as long as six years. The Wildcats also hope to get big contributions from sophomore pitcher Devyn Netz and redshirt sophomore outfielder Janelle Meoño.

Of the nine teams that contest softball in the Pac-12, five are ranked in D1 Softball’s preseason poll. Joining the Wildcats in the Top 25 are No. 4 UCLA, No. 7 Washington, No. 16 Oregon, and No. 21 ASU. The Oklahoma Sooners of the Big XII are ranked first.

After the opening night game against Southern Utah, Arizona will host the Candrea Classic from Feb. 11-13. The Wildcats will face the Thunderbirds a second time before playing No. 2 Alabama and New Mexico.