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TaxAct Clearwater Invitational softball tournament announces 2023 schedule, Arizona opponents

A rematch with Mississippi State and a game against former ASU coach Trisha Ford are the main stories for the Wildcats

arizona-softball-lures-coach-josh-bloomer-away-from-south-carolina-per-report Photo by Mike Christy / Arizona Athletics

Early season softball tournaments provide for some of the biggest matchups in the sport, and the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational has become one of the biggest tournaments for the top Division I teams. In 2023, Arizona softball will be one of those teams and now they know who and when they will play.

The event posted its schedule online on Thursday afternoon. The schedule runs from Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023 through Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023. The Wildcats will begin play on Friday, Feb. 17.

Arizona’s first game will be an extremely early start for the team from the Southwest. The Wildcats will be the visiting team as they face former Arizona State coach Trisha Ford and her Texas A&M Aggies at 10 a.m. EST on Feb. 17, making it an 8 a.m. MST start.

The Aggies went 31-28 last season and were the 12th seed in the SEC Tournament. They defeated South Carolina in the opening round game before bowing out to host team Florida in the first full day of the tournament.

Despite being only slightly over .500 and finishing 12th in the 13-team conference, the Aggies were still selected for the NCAA Tournament. They were sent to the Norman Regional where they beat Minnesota twice and lost to Oklahoma twice, including a 20-0 run rule loss.

Later on Feb. 17, Arizona will take on another SEC foe when they square up against Mississippi State at 1 p.m. MST. The Wildcats are the designated home team for this game. It will be their only time batting last in the tournament.

The Bulldogs were 37-27 overall and 10-14 in SEC play last season. The 11th seed in the SEC Tournament upset No. 6 seed LSU before falling to third-seeded Tennessee by a score of 1-0 in 13 innings.

They had a magical opening round of the NCAA Tournament, going to second-seeded Florida State and upsetting the Seminoles. The Bulldogs beat the home team twice in the Tallahassee regional finals.

It looked like MSU had a straight shot to the Women’s College World Series when it was one of two unseeded teams that got to host a super regional against another unseeded team, but it was an Arizona team that came limping into the postseason that halted that Cinderella run. Arizona went to Starkville and swept the Bulldogs out of the postseason on its way to Oklahoma City.

On Saturday, Feb. 18, Arizona has a long wait until first pitch against Virginia Tech out of the ACC. The Wildcats will be the road team when they go up against the Hokies in the final game of the day at 5 p.m. MST.

The Hokies were 46-10 overall last season and stormed through the ACC with a 21-2 record. That included winning two of three against Florida State.

Virginia Tech easily beat Kentucky in the regionals but the No. 3 national seed could not make it to Oklahoma City. Like Florida State, their fellow highly-seeded ACC member, the Hokies lost the super regional on their home field.

It’s a relatively quick turnaround for Arizona as they start play on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 10 a.m. MST. In their final game, they will face the Indiana Hoosiers from the Big Ten. The Wildcats will once again be the designated road team.

The Hoosiers were 27-22 last season and 10-13 in the Big Ten. They lost to Penn State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament and did not advance to the NCAA Tournament.