Alabama softball to face an experienced coach, impressive freshman in WCWS matchup vs Arizona
Alabama softball will face Arizona to start the Women's College World Series on Thursday (ESPN, 6 p.m.) in Oklahoma City.
With the No 3 seed Crimson Tide (50-7) looking to win their first national championship in softball since 2012, here are five things to know about the No. 11 Wildcats (41-13).
Mike Candrea is an experienced coach
Arizona coach Mike Candrea has pretty much seen it all. He is in his 36th season coaching the Wildcats. And he has experienced plenty of success. Coming into this season, he had a record of 1,633-421-2 at Arizona, the most wins of any NCAA coach entering 2021.
This WCWS berth is No. 24 with Candrea. Arizona has won it eight times with him at the helm. Arizona hasn't won the whole thing since 2007, though.
Arizona is familiar with SEC softball
The Wildcats are experiencing a run of SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament.
They defeated No. 6 Arkansas twice in the Fayetteville Super Regional. Before that, Arizona beat Ole Miss 12-6 twice in the regional.
Against Arkansas and Ole Miss this season, Alabama finished 5-1. The Crimson Tide lost to Arkansas 4-0 on April 10.
Janelle Meoño is an impressive freshman
Arizona's leadoff hitter, Janelle Meoño, has left an impact in her redshirt freshman season.
She earned the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after she led the conference with a .442 batting average. She also put together a 27-game hitting streak from March 11 to May 2. That number tied the record for a freshman in NCAA history.
She has eight hits in seven NCAA Tournament games.
Arizona has some powerful bats
The Wildcats feature four double-digit home run hitters.
Dejah Mulipola leads the way with 21. Sharlize Palacios (18), Jessie Harper (15) and Malia Martinez (11) round out the top four. By comparison, Bailey Hemphill leads Alabama with 12. Mulipola, Palacios and Harper are also second, third and fourth on the Wildcats in hits, respectively, behind No. 1 Meoño.
Alabama and Arizona have some history
Arizona and Alabama, and more specifically Candrea and Crimson Tide coach Patrick Murphy, are far from strangers.
The two programs have faced each other 15 times since Murphy took over. The Wildcats are 9-6 in those games, most recently winning twice in Tuscaloosa in 2020.
Alabama and Arizona also have faced each other before in the WCWS. The Crimson Tide has defeated the Wildcats three times in four matchups. Most recently, Alabama ended Arizona's season in 2019.