UA softball to face UCLA AT 5 p.m.; Could decide Pac-12 title - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

UA softball to face UCLA AT 5 p.m.; Could decide Pac-12 title

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If Coach Mike Candrea and the Arizona wildcats sweep UCLA in a series starting later today, Arizona can clinch a Pac-12 title.  IF YOU'D LIKE TO HEAR FROM THE ARIZONA WILDCATS AS-SEEN-ON-KVOA, PLEASE CLICK ON ICON ABOVE.

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#3 ARIZONA at #12 UCLA

Arizona (47-5, 17-4 Pac-12) • UCLA (37-12, 11-7 Pac-12)

1 | Friday, May 5 (5 p.m.) | 
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/da/56/48/da5648ab7d49b0140a653deff9393f21.jpg at http://brand.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/ucla-script-main-31.jpg | Westwood, Calif. (Easton Softball Stadium) | Pac-12 Networks | Live Stats | Twitter Updates 
2 | Saturday, May 6 (6 p.m.) | https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/da/56/48/da5648ab7d49b0140a653deff9393f21.jpg at http://brand.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/ucla-script-main-31.jpg | Westwood, Calif. (Easton Softball Stadium) | ESPN 2 | Live Stats | Twitter Updates
3 | Sunday, May 7 (1 p.m.) | https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/da/56/48/da5648ab7d49b0140a653deff9393f21.jpg at http://brand.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/ucla-script-main-31.jpg | Westwood, Calif. (Easton Softball Stadium) | ESPN 2 | Live Stats | Twitter Updates



THIS WEEK: Third-ranked Arizona (47-5, 17-4 Pac-12) heads to Westwood for the final regular season series of 2017 with a chance to accomplish something it has not done since 2007 - win the league championship. The Cats have a 2.5 game lead on second-place Utah (12-4 Pac-12), but the Utes have six Pac-12 games remaining to Arizona's three. For Arizona to clinch the Pac-12 Championship and not worry what the Utes or any other team does the rest of the way, Arizona would have to do something it hasn't done since 2003 - sweep the Bruins; the Wildcats have not won three straight games in Westwood since 1993-1994. Arizona and UCLA face off Friday (5 p.m.), Saturday (6 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) at Easton Stadium.

  • Arizona is off to its best 52-game start (47-5) and 21-game conference start (17-4) since 2004. Arizona's 47 victories are the most since winning 52 in 2010.
  • The Wildcats are third in the NCAA RPI, a metric relied on heavily for seeding the NCAA Tournament. The Pac-12 has four teams in the top seven in the rankings. Arizona was second in the NCAA Softball Committee's initial top-10 rankings last week.
  • Arizona has five finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year (Katiyana MaugaMo MercadoDanielle O'TooleMandie Perez and Taylor McQuillin), the most in the NCAA. The Wildcats also have the most finalists for NFCA DI Freshman of the Year, three (Jessie HarperDejah Mulipola and Alyssa Palomino).
  • Four seniors were selected in last week's NPF Draft, the most of any school in the country (no other school had more than two). UA had three of the first nine picks and four of the first 19 overall. Katiyana Mauga (#6) went to the Texas Charge, Danielle O'Toole (#8) went to the Chicago Bandits and Mo Mercado (#9) and Mandie Perez (#19) went to the USSSA Pride.
  • Katiyana Mauga is heating up. She has 12 home runs in her last 53 at-bats, hitting .453 with 26 RBI in those 18 games. She has been named Pac-12 Player of the Week three of the last five weeks and four times overall this season.
  • Mauga (89 career home runs) set the Arizona career home run record last week and now sits one off the Pac-12 record and six off the NCAA record. She leads the Pac-12 and is second in the country with 22 home runs; she's the only player in NCAA history with 20-plus homers in every season in her career.
  • Through 52 games this season, Arizona has outscored its opposition by more than 300 runs (397-69). Its offense has hit more home runs (NCAA-most 87) than its opponents have total runs (69). UA has over 150 more hits (468) than its opponent has total bases (302).
  • Four of Arizona's five losses are to teams currently ranked in the top 10, and three of those losses came by one run. The Wildcats have played 11 games against current top-10 teams and are 7-4.
  • Head coach Mike Candrea became the first coach in NCAA softball history to reach 1,500 Division I victories earlier this season vs. Washington. Candrea, who is 1,515-384-2 (.798), trails only Michigan's Carol Hutchins (1,522 wins) in NCAA history. Candrea's victories have occurred over 30 years of coaching while Hutchins is in her 34th year (including a season in a lower NCAA division).
  • Candrea is the fastest coach in NCAA history, in any sport, in any division, to record 1,500 career wins.
  • UA leads the Pac-12 in batting average (.342), slugging percentage (.604), on-base percentage (.438), runs scored (397), hits (468), RBI (359), doubles (81), home runs (87), walks (218), ERA (1.23), opposing batting average (.174), strikeouts (363) and fielding percentage (.977).
  • Individually, Arizona has the Pac-12's leader in slugging percentage (Mauga - .922), runs scored (Perez - 58), RBI (Mauga - 55), home runs (Mauga - 22), total bases (Harper - 123), ERA (O'Toole - 0.95), strikeouts (O'Toole - 180) and wins (O'Toole - 26).
  • Arizona has thrown 21 shutouts in 52 games, already its most since 2010 (23). In 42 of the 52 games, the Cats have limited the opponent to two or fewer runs.
  • While Arizona has many eye-popping stats in many different categories, softball is simply a game of scoring more runs than your opponent. Well, Arizona is second in the country in runs scored (401) and is second in runs allowed (69). The Wildcats are third in the nation with a 1.23 team ERA. Meanwhile, the UA offense is scoring 7.63 runs per game, second best nationally.
  • Jessie Harper was named Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Week for her domination at the plate vs. ASU. She had two 3-for-3 games and drove in eight of Arizona's 14 runs in the series. Harper went 3-for-3 with two homers, including a grand slam, in game 3.
  • Through 12 weeks, Arizona has earned 15 of the 36 Pac-12 weekly awards (Player, Pitcher and Freshman), by seven different players. Arizona has had seven Pac-12 Players of the Week (Katiyana Mauga – 1, Mo Mercado – 3, Jessie Harper – 6, Katiyana Mauga – 8, Katiyana Mauga – 9, Katiyana Mauga – 11, Jessie Harper – 12), three Pac-12 Pitchers of the Week (Danielle O'Toole – 3, Michelle Floyd – 5, Danielle O'Toole – 7) and five Pac-12 Freshmen of the Week (Dejah Mulipola – 2, Jessie Harper – 5, Jessie Harper – 6, Alyssa Palomino – 8, Jessie Harper – 12).
  • Arizona has scored 102 runs in the first inning this season. That's over 30 runs more than its pitchers have allowed all season (69) in all innings combined.
  • Arizona's freshmen have combined for 46 home runs. That four-player total would be tied for 23rd nationally.

ARIZONA vs. UCLA: The two most dominant programs in the sport's history, there's plenty on the line every time these two teams link up. Arizona and UCLA have combined to win 19 NCAA Championships and both have teams competing to host not only regionals, but to grab one of the top eight seeds and put themselves in a position to host super regionals this year. UCLA holds a 76-56 all-time record vs. Arizona. The Bruins are Arizona's only opponent (minimum three games) to hold a winning record over the Wildcats. UCLA has had Arizona's number of late, winning 10 of the last 11, including a series victory in Tucson a season ago (full recap on page 6).
SCOUTING THE BRUINS: Twelfth-ranked UCLA (37-12, 11-7 Pac-12) rides an eight-game winning streak into its matchup with Arizona, including a three-game sweep at Stanford last weekend ... The series will match up the two most powerful offenses in the Pac-12 as UCLA is second in the league behind Arizona in home runs (56), slugging percentage (.507) and doubles (71) ... Kylee Perez (.400 avg, 21 RBI, 8-9 SB) leads the Pac-12 in hits (66) ... Their do-it-all pitcher freshman Rachel Garcia is 15-7 with a 1.97 ERA in the circle and hitting .328 with four homers in the batter's box ... UCLA has taken the series over two top-10 opponents this year (at Washington, vs. Oregon).
LAST WEEK: Third ranked Arizona won the series against its rivals from the north, winning games 1 and 3 to take the series vs. Arizona State for the second straight year and improve to 94-52-1 all-time against the Sun Devils ... UA opened the week by defeating ASU 4-3 before the Sun Devils evened the series with a 5-2 victory in game 2. The Cats won the rubber match in convincing fashion, 8-0 in five innings on Senior Day ... The Wildcats were led offensively by Jessie Harper, who went 3-for-3 in both of Arizona's wins and drove in eight of UA's 13 runs for the weekend. On Sunday, in an 8-0, five-inning drubbing, Harper hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and a double. She was named Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Week for her effort ... Danielle O'Toole went 2-0 in the series. After allowing three runs on four hits over the first three innings of the series, O'Toole was dominant over the final nine innings, retiring 28 of the final 34 batters she faced over the two victories, including a one-hit shutout on Sunday ... The Cats hit five home runs for the weekend, including Katiyana Mauga's 22nd of 2017 and 89th of her career. Mauga is now one shy of tying the Pac-12 record and six shy of tying the NCAA record for career homers. (Full recap on page 5).

  • Katiyana Mauga: The senior is 24-for-her-last-53 (.453) with 12 home runs and 26 RBI. She has received three of the last five Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. Mauga leads the Pac-12 in home runs (22) and slugging percentage (.922).
  • Jessie Harper: The Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Week went 6-for-9 (.667) vs. ASU with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI. She reclaimed the conference-lead in total bases with 123 on the year. She is slugging .783 on the season, Arizona's highest by a freshman since Katiyana Mauga slugged .877 in 2014.
  • Reyna Carranco: After having just eight hits in her first 56 at-bats of 2017 (.142), Carranco is 27-for-her-last-59 (.458), and is second in the Pac-12 with a .426 batting average in league play.
  • Alyssa Palomino: The freshman has homered in nine of Arizona's last 21 games and slugging .885 over her last 61 at-bats.
  • Ashleigh Hughes: After entering her junior year a career .277 hitter in 242 at-bats, Hughes has had a breakout campaign in year 3. Hughes is hitting .387 this season and over .400 in Pac-12 play (.407).

THE KATI WATCH IS ON: Though Katiyana Mauga's focus remains on OKC, her chase for history is on. How many #MaugaBombs can she hit? A complete breakdown of where she stands in the UA, Pac-12 and NCAA record books can be found on page 13. Here are some notes:

  • Mauga has hit 89 career home runs in 227 games played. She now holds the Arizona career record and is one shy of the Pac-12 record (90 - Stacey Nuveman, UCLA, 97-02) and six shy of the NCAA record (95 - Lauren Chamberlain, Oklahoma, 12-15).
  • The senior leads the Pac-12 and is second in the NCAA with 22 home runs this season.
  • With 20 homers as a freshman, 26 as a sophomore and 21 as a junior and now 22 as a senior, Mauga is the only player in NCAA history to hit 20 home runs in every season of her career.
  • Mauga's 89 career homers lead all active hitters in the NCAA by a wide margin. No other player has more than 65 career homers.
  • Arizona now has four of the top six home run hitters in NCAA history. Mauga joins Chambers (4th - 87), Leah Braatz (t5th - 85) and Laura Espinoza (t5th - 85). Additionally, Shelby Pendley, whose 84 homers are seventh, played at Arizona before transferring to Oklahoma.

RAISE THE A: Arizona started a new tradition in 2016 -- raising the "A" flag in Candrea's Corner, the left field bleachers, after home victories. The flagpole may get a workout, considering Arizona's 689-88 (.887) record all-time at Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona is 26-2 at Hillenbrand Stadium this year.
PACK THE PLACE: Arizona is averaging 2,261 fans per home date this season, second best average attendance in the country behind Alabama (2,409/date). This will mark the ninth straight year averaging more than 2,000 fans for Arizona.
RED, WHITE AND BLUE TAKES ON A DIFFERENT MEANING: Arizona's long-standing tradition with USA Softball will continue this summer. Senior Danielle O'Toole was named the U.S. Women's National Team while freshmen Jessie Harper and Dejah Mulipola were named to the U.S. Junior Women's National Training Team following a selection camp in January. Arizona's ties to USA Softball run deep, most memorably as skipper Mike Candrea served as the head coach for Team USA's 2004 (gold medal) and 2008 (silver medal) teams. In 2016, a pair of Wildcats received the Association's highest honors as Kellie Fox (2014-15) was named USA Softball Athlete of the Year and redshirt freshman Alyssa Palomino was named USA Softball Junior Athlete of the Year.
CIRCLE IT: After a five-year span in the circle in which Arizona put up a combined ERA north of 3.50 from 2011-15, pitching has returned as Arizona's strength the last two years, coinciding with the arrival of Danielle O'Toole and Taylor McQuillin in 2016. After Arizona finished second in the Pac-12 in ERA last year (2.67), the pitching staff leads the Pac-12 with a 1.23 ERA 52 games into 2017. O'Toole and McQuillin have ERAs of 0.95 and 1.70, respectively.
TOOLE TIME: Danielle O'Toole is 26-3 with a 0.95 ERA. O'Toole, who is third in the NCAA is victories and fifth in ERA, has been named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week twice and was national pitcher of the week after her first career no-hitter vs. No. 6 Washington (3/24) and posting a 0.00 ERA in two starts vs. the Huskies. O'Toole leads the Pac-12 in strikeouts (180). She's trying to become the first Wildcat to post an ERA under 1.00 since Alicia Hollowell (0.89) in 2006. In her two seasons at Arizona, O'Toole has thrown 17 shutouts, eight of which have occurred vs. ranked opponents. This year, O'Toole has shut out #21 Baylor (7.0 IP, 5 H), #23 BYU (6.0 IP, 3 H), #6 Washington (7.0 IP, 0 H), #6 Oregon (7.0 IP, 5 H) and #23 Arizona State (5.0 IP, 1 H).
SOMETHING TO HARP ON: Jessie Harper is second in the Pac-12 with 18 home runs in her freshman campaign, three shy of the Arizona freshman record. In weeks 5 and 6, Harper was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week in back-to-back weeks as well as Pac-12 Player of the Week in week 6. During that two-week 11-game roadtrip in southern California and Oregon State, Harper went 18-for-34 (.529) with five doubles, five homers and a 1.177 slugging percentage. For the season, Harper is hitting .350 and has a .783 slugging percentage, second in the Pac-12.
MO HITTER: Mo Mercado leads the Wildcats with a .401 batting average and is UA's active leader in career hits (256). At the Mary Nutter Classic in week 3, Mercado went 11-for-13 (.846) with three doubles, a homer, 11 RBI and six runs scored. She was named national and conference player of the week.
PERFECTION! In her first start of the season, Michelle Floyd threw the ninth perfect game in Arizona history, retiring all 15 Hartford batters she faced in an 18-0, five-inning Wildcat victory on March 11. She was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week. Floyd has yet to allow an earned run in 16.1 innings this season.
D UP: In addition to its stellar offense and pitching staff, Arizona's defense has also been rock solid in 2017. The Wildcats are ninth in the country with a .977 fielding percentage. Arizona is the only team in the country to be top 10 in ERA, batting average and fielding percentage.
SENIOR SALUTE: Arizona eight-player senior class is its largest since the eight seniors in 2001 went out on top, winning the program's sixth NCAA title. In 2017, UA will bid adieu to eight players who have been invaluable to the program. All eight have either been full or part time starters during their time. The octet includes four all-Pac-12 first or second teamers and has played a combined 2,151 games at Arizona, combined for 847 hits, 158 home runs, 613 RBI, 861.1 IP, 774 strikeouts and 95 pitching victories. Here are some notes on each senior's career contributions:

  • Nancy Bowling: A 37-game starter in her career in the circle, plus 32 games at first base. Has not lost a pitching decision since her freshman year (16-0 from sophomore year on).
  • Alexis Dotson: A 79-game starter since transferring from local Pima College after her sophomore year. Owns a career .320 average and has scored 50 runs.
  • Michelle Floyd: Arizona's ace in 2015, a season in which she tallied the most innings pitched (183.2), wins (19) and strikeouts (135) while helping lead Arizona to a 41-win season and a super regional appearance. Threw the ninth perfect game in Arizona history in 2017.
  • Katiyana Mauga: The best power hitter in Arizona history with 89 career long balls, third in NCAA history. On pace to leave UA as the all-time leader in slugging percentage (.830).
  • Mo Mercado: Has started every game (234) of her Arizona career and has put up a .361 average in 710 career at-bats, the most among active Wildcats. Three-time all-region performer.
  • Danielle O'Toole: Led the Pac-12 in wins in her first season at Arizona (26) while becoming Arizona's first, first-team all-Pac-12 pitcher since 2010.
  • Mandie Perez: A 213-game starter who was named first-team all-conference as a redshirt junior in 2016. Owns a career .337 average and a stellar .434 on-base percentage.
  • Eva Watson: Has battled injuries, but led Arizona in batting average in 2016 (.387). Has appeared in 175 games in her career, including 68 starts.

FAB FRESHMEN: In addition to Arizona's spectacular senior class, UA's freshmen have been instrumental to Arizona's success as well. The Cats start four freshmen in their usual lineup, Dejah Mulipola (C), Alyssa Palomino (CF), Jessie Harper (1B) and Reyna Carranco (2B). Palomino is second among freshmen in the NCAA in RBI (54), Harper is tied for the lead among freshmen in the NCAA in home runs (18). Below are the top-10 lists in Arizona history for batting average, home runs, RBI and slugging percentage.
OVER THE HILL: Arizona has appeared in every NCAA Tournament since 1988, Mike Candrea's second year on campus. That's 30 consecutive years in the tournament for Arizona. Not only is that the longest active streak, but it is seven years longer than the second longest streak. If Arizona makes the NCAA Tournament in 2017, it will be the longest streak in NCAA softball history, breaking Fresno State's inactive 30-year streak.
KEEPING IT 100: Arizona has reached the century mark in home runs six times in school history, including two of the last three years and will likely challenge it again this year. Only two other schools (UTSA and Louisiana-Lafayette) have had more than two seasons of 100-plus homers. There have been 26 seasons of 100 home runs or more in NCAA history and Arizona has six of them.
BEATING THE BEST: Since 1994, Arizona is above .500 against ranked teams, top-10 teams and top-five competition. UA is 554-248-1 (.691) against ranked competition, 262-163 (.617) against top-10 teams and 128-111 (.536) against top-five teams.
HIGH EXPECTATIONS: Arizona was ranked No. 10 in the Preseason NFCA Top 25, its highest preseason ranking since 2012, and picked to finish second in the Pac-12 by the coaches prior to the season, its highest since 2011. Why?

  • Arizona returned eight starters, four pitchers and 16 total letterwinners from a 40-win team in 2016. In all, the Cats return 90% of their hits (420-of-465), 91% of their home runs (61-of-67) and 90% of their RBI (268-of-298). Additionally, all four pitchers return from a staff that was second in the Pac-12 in ERA.
  • The Wildcats' senior class of eight is its largest in 16 years, when the eight seniors in 2001 went out by winning national championship.
  • Those seniors will play a key role in mentoring Arizona's seven-player freshman class. The six true freshmen -- Dejah Mulipola (No. 5 recruit, FloSoftball), Reyna Carranco (No. 16), Jessie Harper (No. 43), Malia Martinez (No. 57), Carli Campbell and Jaycee Lindley -- were rated as the No. 3 recruiting class in the country. Add in redshirt freshman Alyssa Palomino, the 2016 USA Softball Junior Athlete of the Year who missed last season with a torn ACL, and the Wildcats have plenty of fresh talent to go with their experienced core.

FOLLOW THE TEAM: Be sure to follow the Wildcats on their various social media platforms. To stay up-to-date on all the latest happenings with the team, follow Arizona softball on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (@UA_Softball).
UP NEXT: Arizona ends its regular season this weekend at UCLA. The Wildcats will have a bye next week before finding out their postseason fate on Sunday, May 14. The selection show will air at 7 p.m. MST on ESPNU.


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