Arizona softball played two top 10 teams last week, losing to Florida State and defeating Virginia Tech. Now, it’s time to prepare for another top 10 opponent. It’s a big occasion as No. 7 Arkansas has its home opener at Bogle Park.
The No. 13 Wildcats (7-3) will play the Razorbacks (8-2) and Drake (2-3) in the Razorback Invitational beginning Thursday, Feb. 23. The tournament initially included two games against Arkansas, two against Drake, and one against Illinois State. The competition level stepped up after the original announcement with Illinois State no longer in the field and an extra game against Arkansas added.
Like Arizona, Arkansas is returning from the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational. The Razorbacks faced a slightly easier schedule in Florida than the Wildcats did, but they faced some of the same teams.
Arkansas played two ranked teams last week, but only one was ranked in the top 10.* The Razorbacks went 3-2 over the weekend with a loss to No. 6 Florida State and then-No. 16 Duke. They closed out the weekend with three straight wins over unranked Indiana, Louisiana, and Nebraska.
Drake just opened its season last week at Iowa State in the UNI-Dome Tournament. The Bulldogs lost two games to Omaha and one to South Dakota while taking two victories over Iowa State.
How does Arizona match up against both teams?
Arizona: The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 87-23 so far this season. Even in their three losses, they were only outscored 14-8.
Six of UA’s seven wins this season have come via the run rule in five innings while its biggest loss was by three runs. The Wildcats have a +2 run differential against top 10 opponents, outscoring them 10-8 overall despite going 1-1 in those two games.
Five different players have hit a total of eight home runs for the Wildcats with four of those coming off the bat of Carlie Scupin. She narrowly leads Blaise Biringer for the team high in RBIs. Scupin has 17 to Biringer’s 16. As a team, the Wildcats have 80 RBIs compared to 19 for their opponents.
The Wildcats didn’t run as much this weekend, but they still stole two bases. That makes them 10 for 10 on stolen bases this season. They only had 23 last season.
Outfielders Dakota Kennedy and Jasmine Perezchica are tied with three stolen bases in three attempts each, although Perezchica only played in one game last week due to an injury reportedly suffered during batting practice.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have shown more power so far this season than the Wildcats, hitting a total of 16 home runs with four players having multiple long balls so far. They have a 76-29 advantage in RBIs versus their opponents and have outscored their opponents 81-32.
As Wildcat fans have seen with past power teams, that power typically goes hand-in-hand with fewer stolen bases. Arkansas has gone six for six on the base paths. Half of those stolen bases are by Reagan Johnson.
Three of the Razorbacks wins came by the run rule. All of those were in their opening tournament at UNLV with two against Weber State and one against the Rebels.
Against teams ranked in the NFCA top 25, they have been outscored 16-10.
Drake: The Bulldogs only have three players hitting .300 or better and have been outscored 21-20 this season.
They haven’t shown a lot of power so far. They have just two home runs, both by Emma Dighton. They have four doubles and a triple for a total of seven extra-base hits.
Dighton is also their RBI leader with seven. No one else on the team has more than three with two players hitting that mark.
Drake has attempted five stolen bases. The Bulldogs’ baserunners have been successful on three of those five attempts.
Arizona: Devyn Netz is the undeniable ace of the staff. She had a rough outing in her first start in Clearwater, but that was aided by errors committed by her defense. She bounced back with two days of solid work in two games that Arizona split.
Netz is 4-1 on the season with a 1.79 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. In her 27.1 innings pitched, she has given up 20 hits and 12 runs, but only seven of those runs were earned. She has surrendered three extra-base hits—a home run and two doubles—and struck out 19 while walking six.
Other than Netz, freshman Aissa Silva made the strongest impression in the circle while in Florida. She has both the lowest batting average against (.147) and the lowest WHIP (0.83) on the staff.
Silva has pitched 9.2 innings so far this season. She has given up five hits and three walks while striking out six.
Junior Ali Blanchard had good innings during the first weekend in Tucson, but she had some problems at the Clearwater Invitational. Those issues were primarily related to walks.
Blanchard has walked five batters in 9.1 IP with three of those coming in her final appearance in Florida. She only has one fewer walk than Netz, but Netz has pitched almost three times as many innings. Blanchard has a 3.75 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP, but her record stands at 2-0.
Freshman Sydney Somerndike finally got an opportunity to start in Clearwater. She made good use of her chance, getting the win to even her record at 1-1. Somerndike leads the team in ERA (0.95) and is tied with Netz for the second-lowest WHIP (0.95), but she has only pitched 7.1 innings.
Senior Brianna Hardy is still trying to come into her own since transferring to Arizona. She has only pitched in 3.1 innings and had difficulty when she entered in relief in Clearwater. She was only able to retire one of the three batters she faced before being replaced by Silva.
Hardy has an ERA of 2.10 and a WHIP 1.50. The ERA is the second highest on the team and the WHIP is the highest.
On the plus side, Hardy leads the team by far in the number of strikeouts per inning. She has five Ks in her three-and-a-third innings of work.
As a staff, the Wildcats have an ERA of 2.09 and a WHIP of 1.04. They have given up six home runs and 13 doubles compared to the eight homers and seven doubles hit by their offense.
Arkansas: Chenise Delce has pitched the most innings for the Razorbacks but not by much. Her 20.1 IP is not significantly more than the 16.1 of Robyn Herron or the 15.1 of Callie Turner. Delce and Herron have had the most success, though.
Herron has a 0.86 ERA and has struck out 25 batters in just over 16 innings. Delce has a 2.07 ERA with 23 Ks in just over 20 innings. Turner lags behind the other two primary starters with a 4.11 ERA and 13 Ks.
The biggest problem for the Razorbacks’ pitching staff is the number of walks they are issuing. Herron has pitched 11 fewer innings than Arizona’s Netz, but she has just one less walk than the Wildcats’ number one starter. Delce has pitched seven fewer innings than Netz and has one more walk than the Arizona ace. The problem really crops up for Turner. She has walked 10 batters in just over 15 innings of work.
Of the five pitchers on the staff, only Delce and Herron have ERAs under 3.32. As a staff, they sit at 2.48. The staff’s WHIP is 1.21 as a group.
Drake: Like Arizona’s Netz, Dighton is both hitting and pitching for the Bulldogs. She has not handled it as well as the Wildcats’ ace. Drake’s leader in innings pitched (11.1) has a 4.32 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. That’s the highest on the team of any pitcher throwing more than 1.1 innings. Of the 15 hits she has given up, five went for two bags and one left the yard.
Dighton does appear to stay in and around the zone, though. She has walked just one batter this season.
As far as keeping runners off the bases, the most successful pitcher on the staff is Paige Bedsworth who has a 1.20 WHIP. However, her 4.20 ERA suggests that those who get on base have a solid chance of scoring. Bedsworth has seven strikeouts in her 6.2 innings of work.
When it comes to keeping runners from scoring, the top pitcher is Mackenzie Hupke with a 1.00 ERA. The problem for Hupke is the number of walks she issues. In just seven innings, the senior has given eight free passes. On the other hand, she has also struck out eight batters.
Arizona: Many of Arizona’s problems in Clearwater came down to defense. Both Biringer and sophomore outfielder Paige Dimler had a difficult week in the field.
Dimler ended the week with three errors and Biringer had two. All five came in games against Florida State and Mississippi State, both of which the Wildcats lost.
Shortstops Sophia Carroll and Tayler Biehl added one each. Those both came in the game against Virginia Tech which Arizona won.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have five players with one error each. They committed one against Florida State and one against Duke in the games they lost.
Drake: The Bulldogs have only played five games so far this season. In those, they have committed just two errors compared to the four committed by their opponents. Both were committed in a 12-9 loss to South Dakota.
*This site uses the NFCA/USA Today coaches poll as the official poll. Louisiana was ranked No. 22 in the USA Softball/ESPN poll last week but has only been receiving votes in the NFCA poll. ULL has since dropped out of the USA Softball poll, too.
No. 13 Arizona Wildcats (7-3, 0-0 Pac-12) @ No. 7 Arkansas Razorbacks (8-2, 0-0 SEC)
When: The teams play a doubleheader on Thursday, Feb. 23. Game times are 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. MST. They meet again at 3 p.m. MST on Friday, Feb. 24.
Where: Bogle Park in Fayetteville, Ark.
Streaming: SEC+ on Watch ESPN
Stats: Arkansas Live Stats-Game 1, Arkansas Live Stats-Game 2, and Arkansas Live Stats-Game 4
Drake Bulldogs (2-3, 0-0 MVC) vs No. 13 Arizona (7-3, 0-0 Pac-12)
When: The two teams play at 10 a.m. MST on Friday, Feb. 24 and 8 a.m. MST on Saturday, Feb. 25.
Where: Bogle Park in Fayetteville, Ark.
Stats: Arkansas Live Stats-Game 3 and Arkansas Live Stats-Game 5
How to follow along: Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm for all things Arizona Wildcats. For live tweets of softball and news throughout the week, follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71.