The Pac-12 softball coaches have spoken and their message is a little muddled. The Arizona Wildcats were selected to finish sixth in the nine-team league this year but had more players named preseason all-conference than any other squad in the league.
Five Wildcats were named to the preseason All-Pac-12 team. They include sophomore catcher Olivia DiNardo, sophomore outfielder Dakota Kennedy, senior RHP/IF Devyn Netz, senior second baseman Allie Skaggs, and senior first baseman Carlie Scupin.
The Stanford Cardinal made it all the way to the Women’s College World Series semifinals last year before falling to eventual national champion Oklahoma by the score of 4-2. The coaches think they’ll be the class of the Pac-12 this season.
That pick is reliant on a trio of sophomores. The Cardinal return of All-American pitcher NiJaree Canady and infielder River Mahler. They also add transfer Taryn Kern. The biggest loss from last season is fifth-year pitcher Alanna Vawter, who transferred to South Carolina in the offseason.
UCLA and Utah each placed four on the preseason all-conference team. The Bruins have redshirt seniors Maya Brady and Sharlize Palacios to go along with sophomores Megan Grant and Jordan Woolery.
The Utes won the inaugural Pac-12 tournament last year, and they have the experience it takes to do it again. Their preseason All-Pac-12 selections are grad students Julia Jiminez and Haley Denning, as well as seniors Mariah Lopez and Aliya Belarde.
The only other team with multiple players on the all-conference team is Washington. Senior pitcher Lindsay Lopez and sophomore pitcher Ruby Meylan both made the cut.
California’s Tatum Anzaldo and Oregon’s Hanna Delgado round out the 20-player team.
Behind the Cardinal, the coaches expect the finish to be UCLA, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, California, Arizona State, and Oregon State. Stanford received seven of the nine first-place votes. Utah and Washington each picked up one.
The season gets started for Arizona at the Candrea Classic on Thursday, Feb. 8.