Arizona softball: Struggling Cats face crucial final stretch

2013-04-26T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:32:02Z Arizona softball: Struggling Cats face crucial final stretchPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats had a bad week.

They lost their last two home games to UCLA by a combined score of 22-4, fell out of the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 for the first time ever and fell to 28-19 overall and 5-10 in the Pac-12.

Their next loss will mark the most a Mike Candrea-coached UA team has ever posted in one regular season.

"It's an emotional roller coaster, and right now we're on the bottom end of it," said Candrea, whose team starts a three-game series today at Oregon State (27-17, 4-11). "I feel very confident that we can bring it back up to where we need to.

"We just hope that we have time to do it."

More important than last week, he said, is this week. And the two after that.

With nine games left, the Wildcats can improve their NCAA tournament seed and gain some momentum heading into a postseason where folks figure to view the eight-time champion as an afterthought.

"We can make a statement by playing well in those nine games," Candrea said.

Here's a look at what's at stake, and where the Wildcats stand, by the numbers:

28 - The UA's RPI, a measurement of one-quarter its winning percentage, one-half its opponents' winning percentage, and one-quarter its opponents' opponents' winning percentage, used to select participants in the 64-team NCAA tournament.

"Do I think we're one of the best 64 teams in the country? Absolutely," Candrea said.

But Candrea knows the Wildcats can't rest of their RPI.

"The one thing they look at is, really, how you finish," he said. "I think these next nine games is going to be huge for us, as far as the committee's concerned.

"When they start looking at numbers, our RPI is good enough. But we still need to win some quality games."

36 - Oregon State's RPI. The Wildcats can make gains, RPI-wise, by beating the Beavers, but also Arizona State (13 RPI) and Stanford (18 RPI) the next two weeks.

"We've got three good teams that we're playing," Candrea said, "and we've gotta do some things a little differently than we have."

6-3 - The Wildcats need to win six of their last nine to avoid the worst conference winning percentage in Candrea's UA tenure. The Cats went 5-6-1 in 1986, the coach's first year in Tucson.

Candrea said a reasonable goal "has gotta be more than 5-4" the rest of the way.

"They are very crucial games; they're gonna make or break us," said the Wildcats' only senior, shortstop Brigette Del Ponte.

3.92 - The team's ERA, ranked last in the Pac-12 and No. 186 out of 289 teams nationwide.

"We have to pitch better right now, to be honest with you, to be able to have a chance to win," Candrea said.

Candrea said he has "a couple things up my sleeve" to help the Wildcats' pitching this week, but wouldn't elaborate. The UA has allowed 50 runs in the last six games.

"We know we're better than this," UA pitcher Estela Piñon said.

0 - The Wildcats figure they have nowhere to go but up.

"Coach told us after the UCLA series - 'There's not a lot of pressure on your guys,' because everybody's kinda looking down on us," left fielder Mandie Perez said. "I'm looking at it like, there's more pressure on the other teams."

The series

UA at Oregon State

• Today: 3 p.m.

• Saturday: 3 p.m.

• Sunday: 11 a.m.

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4658. On Twitter @PatrickFinley.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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