The 2024 season will mark 50 years of Arizona softball. It will also mark the final year of the Wildcats’ tenure in the conference that put the sport on the map as eight of the nine schools that play the sport prepare to leave for other leagues. The program released the schedule for that historic season on Thursday afternoon.
The Wildcats will not play in any of the major tournaments this season, but they will face 15 teams who appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season. That includes four teams who advanced to the 2023 Women’s College World Series, three of which come from the Pac-12. The 15 opponents who made the postseason last season will play against UA in 33 games. Fifteen of those games will be in nonconference play.
The season starts with the Candrea Classic at Hillenbrand Stadium from Thursday, Feb. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 11. The Wildcats host Utah Tech, Northern Colorado, North Texas, and Lipscomb. They play Northern Colorado and North Texas twice each over the course of the weekend while facing Utah Tech and Lipscomb once. Northern Colorado claimed the Big Sky’s automatic bid last season.
UA should get its first real test the second weekend of the season during the Bear Down Fiesta, which brings three teams from last year’s NCAA Tournament to Hillenbrand from Thursday, Feb. 15 through Sunday, Feb. 18. The slate includes two games each against Arkansas, Long Beach State, and Nebraska-Omaha.
The Hillenbrand Invitational runs from Thursday, Feb. 22 through Sunday, Feb. 25. It is headlined by Indiana, which made it to the tournament last season. Also playing that weekend are Drake, Marshall, and Central Michigan. The Wildcats play the Hoosiers and the Thundering Herd twice each. They face the Bulldogs and the Chippewas once.
UA finally leaves Tucson the fourth week of the season when they head to Tuscaloosa for the Crimson Classic. The tournament runs from Friday, Mar. 1 through Sunday, Mar. 3. Arizona will play two games against Alabama, which rode the committee’s very generous overall No. 5 seed to the WCWS. The Wildcats also play Northern Iowa twice while facing South Alabama once.
The Wildcats will make a stop in Louisville, KY on Mar. 5-6. They will play single games against 2023 tournament teams Miami (OH) and Louisville before starting conference play.
Arizona opens the Pac-12 season at Oregon State from Mar. 8-10. Like the Wildcats, the Beavers made an unexpected run to the 2022 WCWS as an unseeded team but struggled last year and missed the postseason.
After two full weeks on the road, the Wildcats have their Pac-12 home opener against Washington. The Huskies, who made last year’s WCWS, will be in Tucson Mar. 15-17.
Beginning Mar. 22, UA will play their final Pac-12 series at California. The Wildcats then return home to host 2023 WCWS semifinalist Stanford beginning Mar. 28. While the Cardinal lost senior pitcher Alana Vawter after last season, they still have sophomore phenom NiJaree Canady in the circle. They also added former Indiana All-American infielder Taryn Kern.
Arizona travels to face another 2023 WCWS participant from Apr. 5-7 when it goes to Utah. That’s followed by a stop in Las Cruces for a midweek doubleheader against New Mexico State on Tuesday, Apr. 9.
The Wildcats land back in Tucson for six straight games. From Apr. 12-14, they host the Oregon Ducks, who made it to the super regionals last season. That is followed by the rivalry series against Arizona State from Apr. 19-21.
Arizona completes its final conference regular season in the Pac-12 with a road series at UCLA from Apr. 26-28 before putting a bow on the nonconference slate with a home game against Grand Canyon on Tuesday, Apr. 30.
The Pac-12 as we know it will wind up its final season with its second conference tournament. The single-elimination tournament will be held from May 8-11 at Stanford’s Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium.