#16 Arizona Softball 2016 Preview

Arizona Wildcats
Overall Rank: #16
Conference Rank: #3 Pac-12
 Arizona Logo
Arizona’s offense continues to roll along as they scored 461 runs as a team and hit 104 homeruns overall during the 2015 season. So Wildcat softball fans will never have to worry about seeing their team score runs and play exciting softball. However, fans and alumni have to be getting a little restless as the 2015 season brought another year without a trip to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series. A very talented and deep team returns for head coach Mike Candrea and it will be interesting to see if the Wildcat team can put it all together and get back to the Women’s College World Series this season.
2015: 41-20, 13-11
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Candrea
Field Players:
There will be a bit of a rebuilding process with the everyday lineup for Arizona. But make no mistake, this team will still find a way to put up plenty of runs over the course of the season. Junior outfielder Katiyana Mauga will be the leader offensively as she is the returning leader in runs scored with 42, homeruns with 26 and runs batted in with 76. Mauga is also a very disciplined hitter as she walked 32 times last season while striking out just 29 times. Junior infielder Mo Mercado brings more of an ability to hit for an average. She batted .339 with six homeruns and 31 runs batted in last season.
Junior Michelle Floyd will be back in the circle as the ace of the staff and will be looking to improve on a solid sophomore season. Floyd was 19-13 with a 3.62 earned run average last season. In order for Floyd to take a significant step forward in 2016, she will have to cut down on the amount of walks. She issued 108 walks while striking out 135. If this total can be reduced down to around 50-60 walks, that will keep Floyd in position to win a lot more games this season for the Wildcats.
Who to Watch:
The number two starting spot should be a fascinating competition between Nancy Bowling and incoming freshman Taylor McQuillin. With Trish Parks graduating, there is at least a good 120 plus innings of work that needs to be picked up, if not more. McQuillin was the Gatorade National Player of the Year and has the elite credentials of a pitcher who could come in and be that next Jennie Finch, Alicia Hollowell or Taryne Mowatt and bring Arizona back to national championship contender status if all goes well.
Final Projection:
By the second weekend of the season, Coach Candrea and his staff will have a nice gauge as far as how good the Wildcats are, and can be, after playing a very tough gauntlet of teams at the Mary Nutter Classic. Arizona will face LSU, UCF, Michigan, Florida and Texas A&M in that tournament followed by Alabama the next weekend at the Easton Bama Bash. During conference play, the Wildcats will start off with a trip to Tempe to play rival Arizona State. The toughest two week stretch during Pac-12 play will be a home series against UCLA, followed by a trip to Eugene to play the Ducks. If the pitching can continually evolve over the course of the season, then Arizona should be safely in the conversion for one of the top sixteen national seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Mo Mercado, IF, 186
Hits: Mo Mercado, IF, 63
Home Runs: Katiyana Mauga, OF, 26
RBIs: Katiyana Mauga, OF, 76
Runs: Katiyana Mauga, OF, 42
Stolen Bases: Ashleigh Hughes, UTIL, 9
Wins: Michelle Floyd, P, 19
Innings Pitched: Michelle Floyd, P, 183.1
Strikeouts: Michelle Floyd, P, 135
Saves: Nancy Bowling, P, 1
Madness 2016 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#6 Taylor McQuillin
#17 Alyssa Palamino
#57 Hillary Edior