It’s the nature of Pac-12 softball. When you head to the Pacific Northwest early in the season, you’re likely to face rain. It’s in the forecast for the Arizona Wildcats as they head to Corvallis to play Oregon State this weekend.
The weather forecast for the three-game series is promising for Friday evening with just a 20 percent chance of rain and “partly cloudy” skies according to weather.com. Those rain predictions jump to 42 percent on Saturday and 58 percent on Sunday for the final two games of the series. What does that mean for the team?
“Actually, you can take advantage of it because you get little breaks to kind of be yourself in those moments and enjoy your teammates,” said Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe. “They start to focus you even more. So you can either sit on the bench and wait it out or you kind of do things that keep you integrated into the game.”
The forecast on the field includes facing a tough pitching staff led by Mariah Mazon. The Beavers pitcher is second in the Pac-12 with a 0.62 ERA. She has yet to give up an earned run in conference play, putting her first during league play. She has done that by holding her conference opponents to a .102 batting average, third-best in the conference.
Unlike most of the pitchers in the top 10 of ERA, Mazon isn’t getting her numbers by pitching limited innings. Of the 10 best ERA in the Pac-12, only Mazon, teammate Sarah Haendiges, UCLA’s Megan Faraimo, and Stanford’s Alana Vawter have pitched at least 85 innings. The other six have thrown between 37 and 69 innings this season.
Mazon and Haendiges have carried a fairly equal load. Mazon has pitched 89.2 innings and Haendiges has been in the circle for 85.2 innings. Haendiges is sixth in the league with a 1.39 ERA. The bulk of the remaining innings has gone to Tarni Stepto, who has pitched 70 innings and has a 2.60 ERA.
The Beavers (29-8, 5-4 Pac-12) have played a fairly robust schedule. although not quite as tough as Arizona’s. Oregon State has played 18 teams in the RPI top 100, but only five of those have been in the top 25 and only one in the top 10—although that game was against No. 1 Alabama.
Oregon State’s first three Pac-12 series have come against ASU (No. 16 RPI), Stanford (No. 37), and California (No. 50). They have gone 5-4 against that competition, getting swept by the Sun Devils, going 2-1 against the Cardinal, and sweeping the Golden Bears.
Arizona (20-12, 1-8 Pac-12) has played a similar number of games against the RPI top 100 with 20 contests against that level of competition. The difference is where those teams fall in the top 100.
Of the Wildcats’ 20 games against the top 100, five were played against teams in the RPI top 5 and 12 have been against the top 25. All of the Wildcats’ Pac-12 series have come against teams in the top 20 of the RPI—No. 4 UCLA, No. 16 ASU, and No. 20 Washington.
There is another difference between the teams’ seasons, as well. The Arizona faithful have largely considered Arizona’s year to be a major disappointment. In contrast, Oregon State’s season to date is considered a great year for the Beavs.
History has something to do with that. Oregon State is on track to have its best season since 2018 when the Beavers finished the season 30-28. That year, they advanced to the finals of the Tuscaloosa Regional where they were eliminated from the postseason by Alabama. It was their first appearance in a regional championship since 2012.
In contrast, Arizona had its worst losing streak in program history to open Pac-12 play. The eight-game skid was unheard of for the fans and devastating for some of the players in a program that expects to be in the postseason and considers it a failure not to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
While Lowe and her players have tried to keep a brave face, once in a while they let it slip that they know this was never going to be a typical year for Arizona softball. Sophomore shortstop Sophia Carroll keeps herself and her teammates moving forward by keeping their goals in mind.
“Reminding my teammates that we will get to a point we want to be and it’s going to be a building year, and you have to stay the course and keep trusting each other and building,” Carroll said.
No. 20 Arizona @ RV Oregon State
When and where: The three-game series will be played in Corvallis, Ore. The times are as follows:
- Game 1: Fri., April 8 at 6 p.m. MST/PDT
- Game 2: Sat., April 9 at 4 p.m. MST/PDT
- Game 3: Sun., Apr. 10 at 11 a.m. MST/PDT
TV: All three games will air on Pac-12 Arizona and Pac-12 Oregon.
Stats: In-game stats will be available on Arizona Live Stats.