SOFTBALL

Arizona softball: Wildcats looking at road for tournament

2013-05-12T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:32:29Z Arizona softball: Wildcats looking at road for tournamentPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Their 27th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance all but guaranteed, the Arizona Wildcats nonetheless figure to find themselves in foreign territory when seeds are announced tonight at 7.

The UA has put in a bid to host the NCAA tournament's regional and super regional rounds but figures to find itself on the road as a lower seed for the first time in the event's modern era.

With an RPI of 29 entering its final regular-season series at Stanford - which was capped Saturday by a 4-3, nine-inning win to take the series - the Wildcats match up, mathematically, as the second-best team in a four-team pod hosted by a top-eight school.

UA coach Mike Candrea said Saturday he expects to travel.

"I don't think we're going to be in the top 16," he said.

The best 16 teams are typically rewarded with hosting the first round, though scheduling conflicts and failure to meet NCAA minimum stadium standards can sometimes force them to take to the road.

Since the tournament changed its format in 2005 - adding a best-of-three super regional round after a round-robin, four-team regional, and seeding the best teams 1-16 - the Wildcats have never been seeded lower than last year's No. 13.

Since 2005, they've been sent on the road twice to start the event, but as the higher seed.

In 2008, the No. 7-seeded Wildcats traveled to Hempstead, N.Y. The next year, the No. 9 Wildcats traveled to Louisville, Ky.

The UA won both series; in fact, the Wildcats are 78-6 in the regional round, all-time. Since 2005, the Wildcats have advanced out of the regional round every time.

Continuing that streak this season might prove difficult.

The UA finished the season 32-24, 9-15 Pac-12, which qualifies as the most regular-season losses and the worst conference clip in the Candrea era.

The Wildcats were in danger of missing the NCAA tournament altogether two weeks ago, when a sweep at Oregon State dropped them to last in the Pac-12.

They climbed out of the cellar - Utah finished last in the Pac-12 - by taking two of three at home against No. 5 Arizona State last week. They've won four of their last six games.

Saturday's win at the No. 13 Cardinal came after catcher Chelsea Goodacre homered to lead off the ninth. Pitcher Shelby Babcock didn't play because of illness, but Candrea expects her to be ready for the playoffs.

"It was nice to win two" at Stanford, he said. "It was a good way to finish.

"This is the time of the year you want to be playing good softball."

Today

• What: NCAA softball tournament selection show

• Time: 7 p.m.

• TV: ESPNU

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