(Tucson, AZ) In the course of athletics, long winning streaks are often a topic of conversation amongst sports fans and the media.
Currently, the Wildcat Softball Team is riding a 19 game winning streak that began March 15th against the Oregon Ducks in the first of nine run rule games.
According to Coach Mike Candrea, the tough non conference schedule that Arizona played helped immensely in getting this team ready for PAC-12 play. In other words, you have to play the best to be the best.
The non conference schedule included national powerhouse teams #19 Michigan and #5 Florida in Tampa to open the season. The Cats beat Michigan 2-1 and lost to the Gators 3-2.
A week later back in Tucson, #7 Alabama was the top seed as part of the Hillenbrand Invitational and won handily 6-1.
In late February, it was off to Palm Springs to compete in the Mary Nutter Classic splitting with the two Oklahoma teams. The #20 Cowboy from Oklahoma State were shut out 3-0 but the #4 Oklahoma Sooners squeaked by 2-1 in a game the Wildcats should have won according to Candrea.
A special matchup brought Team Japan, the defending Olympic Gold Medalists from 2008 in softball as the sport was eliminated from the next two Olympic Games. The game was scoreless until the 5th inning as Dejah Mulipola hit a solo home run and Gina Snyder shut out the powerhouse Japanese lineup on just four hits while striking out five.
The next eight games were a bit of a breather as Arizona won three shortened run rule games, but also went extra innings twice as well.
To finish off the non conference portion off, the nation’s best team #1 Florida State came knocking at the door in Tucson. The Cats lost the series 2-1 games but their lone victory was a run rule 11-3 win in five innings.
With mixed results from the playing the Top 25 teams, Zona came together as a squad knowing they had what it took to compete with the elite teams in the country.
When the conference schedule began, the UCLA Bruins were at the top of the rankings and the odds on favorite to win the conference.
The U of A wasn’t fazed by the Bruins non conference success. They disposed of both Oregon teams in consecutive sweeps and half of the six games were once again shortened run rule games. A quick 6-0 record to start off the PAC-12 and the beginning of the current win streak.
Next to be sent home packing was the nation’s top offensive team and in-state rival Arizona State. The Wildcat pitching staff shut out the Devil juggernaut for the entire series while scoring eighteen runs. PAC-12 record 9-0. ASU lost 9 in a row including being swept by the Cats. Now out of the conference race they stand at 5-10.
With a short two game series with old WAC rival Texas-El Paso, Candrea played a lot of his reserves to give them quality innings. The result was the same, as Arizona Outscored the Miners 22-2 to sweep. The streak continued at 11 straight.
Back to conference play, the next stop was in Salt Lake City where Utah became an afterthought being hammered 48-2 in runs. Now 14 straight wins and 12 in conference play.
Another out off conference series followed with three games in two days. The opponent was a strong Grand Canyon University team who also beat the #1 Florida State Seminoles the week prior to meeting the Cats.
The bats stayed hot for the U of A, although the second game of the first day’s doubleheader went eight innings as the Cats won 2-0. Overall Zona outscored the Antelopes 16-1 to sweep that series. Add three to the streak to make it 17 wins.
This caps off the current schedule with Stanford visiting Tucson and the train kept rolling with the latest sweep and a 29-3 runs difference beatdown with two of the three games shortened by run rule victories.
So the Wildcats are in first place by one game over now #2 UCLA and have won their last twenty in a row. Now they turn their focus to the last three series of the regular season. Next week is up to the Bay Area with a date with the Cal Bears who are dead last at 2-13 in the PAC-12.
Then home with the #3 ranked Washington Huskies who are three games behind Arizona and two games behind UCLA.
Barring any unforeseen hiccups, the Wildcats and Bruins will have a winner take all series to determine the PAC-12 Championship May 9th to 11th in Westwood.
Even with this current twenty game win streak, it pales in comparison to the all-time record of Arizona in 1996-97 over two seasons where Jennie Finch, Nancy Evans, Jenny Dalton and company won an incredible forty seven straight games and two National Championships.
The final two weeks of the season with the Regionals and Super Regionals following could make the 2019 Cats a team of destiny.