The Arizona Wildcats softball team, which finished with its best stretch in an otherwise difficult season, will begin its postseason run in College Station, Texas.
Arizona (32-24 overall, 9-15 Pac-12) will open the NCAA Tournament against Baylor at 12:30 p.m. Tucson time Friday on ESPN in a regional hosted by Texas A&M, the 16th overall seed in the tourney.
It’s time to reset all the numbers.
“Zero-zero,” UA coach Mike Candrea said of his message to his team.
“It’s a new season. A big factor is this team has played nice and loose and relaxed, and they’ve gained confidence they can come back. They don’t hit the panic button. If we can keep them in the same mindset, we’ve got a chance.”
The winner of Texas A&M regional advances to play the winner of the regional hosted by the tournament’s overall No. 1 team, Oklahoma. The Sooners have become a recent nemesis, eliminating Arizona in each of the past two tournaments.
But this hasn’t been the kind of Arizona season in which the Wildcats can look too far down the postseason path.
First up is Baylor, which finished the regular season at 39-15 and features standout left-handed pitcher Whitney Canion (23.7, 1.62 ERA). Texas A&M will open Friday against Penn following the Arizona-Baylor game. UA hasn’t faced any of the other three teams in the regional this season.
This is the first time Arizona hasn’t been the top seed in a regional since the NCAA went to a four-team, double-elimination format in 1994.
The Wildcats finished the season by winning two of three games against No. 3 Arizona State on their final homestand, and taking two of three at No. 13 Stanford this weekend to end the regular season.
“Right now, I feel pretty good,” Candrea said. “I feel we’re starting to put some pieces together and we’re playing the game with some confidence.”
This marks the third time in the past six seasons that Arizona won’t be a host for an NCAA regional.
Arizona advances to its 27 consecutive NCAA Tournament, a streak that dates to Candrea’s second season in charge of the program. He has directed UA to eight national championships, but the Cats have missed out on the College World Series in each of the past two seasons.