When it rains it pours, and it’s raining in Tucson today. Rumors surfaced on Thursday that catcher Sharlize Palacios and centerfielder Janelle Meoño were in the transfer portal. On Friday, Extra Inning Softball’s Justin McLeod confirmed that it was the case.
Both players are heading into their redshirt junior seasons. Palacios was the starting catcher in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and again in 2022. Meoño was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2021 but had injury issues in 2022 and never fully recovered her form.
Palacios went through a dip in production early in the Pac-12 season. On March 27, her average had dropped to .197. However, she recovered and finished with a .326 average and 20 home runs as the Wildcats made an unexpected run to the Women’s College World Series.
Meoño led the Pac-12 with a .432 batting average in 2021. In 2022, she appeared in just 36 of Arizona’s 61 games due to a lower-leg injury. She had difficulty finding the same level of success at the plate after she returned, hitting .291 on the season. After the injury, she had 11 hits in 72 at-bats over 21 games including two hits in eight postseason games.
The defections leave Arizona with eight returners for next season and five incoming freshmen. The Wildcats have yet to announce any transfers into the program but are in desperate need of pitching. They currently will have a pitching staff consisting of just junior Devyn Netz and incoming freshman Sydney Somerndike next season.
As for the holes left by the departures of Palacios and Meoño, Arizona has options. Senior Izzy Pacho was moved to third base last year, but her first position is catcher. She had a breakout season at the plate after finally getting the opportunity to play daily. She hit .360 with 11 home runs. Her average never dropped below .352 over the course of the season.
The Wildcats also bring in Olivia DiNardo, a highly-regarded catcher out of San Mateo, Calif. EIS has her ranked as the No. 7 player overall and the No. 2 catcher in the class. They probably need to bring in another catcher from the transfer portal, though.
In the outfield and at leadoff, Jasmine Perezchica did a strong job at the top of the order while Meoño was injured. The left fielder hit .355 and was successful on 12 of 16 stolen base attempts. She had a fielding percentage of .991.
The Wildcats will also welcome the top-ranked centerfielder in the class according to EIS. Dakota Kennedy is ranked No. 4 overall according to the publication.
While that gives Arizona plenty of talent at the positions in question, head coach Caitlin Lowe and her staff still need to worry about depth. With only 13 players on the 2023 roster and with depth issues at some key positions, the Wildcats need to find those pieces sooner rather than later. The top players are slowly but surely all committing elsewhere.