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No. 9 Arizona softball takes a step up in competition in Top 10 matchup against No. 2 Alabama

Allie Skaggs rounds third after a home run
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

No. 9 Arizona softball got the Caitlin Lowe era off with a bang on Thursday and Friday against Southern Utah outscoring the Thunderbirds 37-1 in 10 innings. Now, things get a great deal more challenging as the Wildcats prepare to step on the field against No. 2 Alabama.

The last time the two teams went head-to-head, the Crimson Tide were sending the Wildcats to the losers’ bracket at the Women’s College World Series. This time, Arizona will be in the friendly confines of Hillenbrand Stadium, but Alabama will still have Montana Fouts in the circle.

Like that game in early June 2021, Fouts will likely face off against Arizona pitcher Hanah Bowen. Bowen did not have a bad outing against the Crimson Tide at the WCWS. She gave up two runs in four innings that day while striking out three.

The problem was that the Wildcats couldn’t manage anything against Fouts. The lone run on the board for Arizona was a home run by alumna Jessie Harper. In addition to Harper’s homer, the only other hit on the day was by Janelle Meoño.

Fouts had double-digit strikeouts in 22 of her 32 starts last season on her way to being named NFCA Pitcher of the Year. One of those starts was against Arizona when she dismissed 16 batters, tying her career record.

Can this version of the Wildcats manage what they couldn’t in Oklahoma City? Most of these players did not face Fouts in that game. Only Meoño, Sharlize Palacios, and Carlie Scupin had at-bats in the opening game of last season’s WCWS. That means that six members of Arizona’s lineup will be taking their hacks for the first time against the Crimson Tide ace on Saturday evening.

Can Meoño, Allie Skaggs, and Jasmine Perezchica maintain their hot starts when the competition level increases?

Meoño has been setting the table well for the Wildcats. She has three hits in her five at-bats and has drawn four walks.

That has set things up for the power hitters in the middle of the lineup. While Scupin and Palacios have had success there, as well, Skaggs has been the leader. The sophomore has four hits in six at-bats. Two of the four have left the park. She has also drawn a pair of walks for a .750 on-base percentage. Her 2.583 OPS is second on the team behind reserve first base Giulia Koutsoyanopulos.

Perezchica is finally getting an opportunity to start and has made the most of it in the early going. The nine-hole hitter has six hits in seven at-bats and has already accounted for five RBI. That trails only Skaggs and Palacios, who each have six over the first two contests.

Now, the team needs to take that success and translate it against the best pitcher in the business.

No. 2 Alabama (1-0, 0-0 SEC) @ No. 9 Arizona (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12)

When and where: The game will be played in Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. beginning at 6 p.m. MST.

Broadcast: The game will be on live stream only. It can be viewed at Arizona Live Stream 2.

Stats: In-game stats are available on Arizona Live Stats.

Rankings: Alabama is ranked No. 2 in all four polls. Arizona is ranked No. 7 by Softball America, No. 9 by USA Today/NFCA, No. 11 by ESPN/USA Softball, and No. 15 by D1 Softball.

How to follow: Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm or on our Facebook page for regular coverage during the week. For live tweets during games and other coverage, follow our deputy editor on Twitter @KimDoss71.