Here are 10 things to look for this weekend in college softball. Fastpitch News will be attending the three-game series between No. 17 Kentucky and No. 18 Arkansas in Lexington. Follow along on Twitter, @Fastpitchnews, for live updates all weekend.
Big Blue Nation
After losing their opening conference series last weekend at Georgia, the Wildcats look to win their SEC home opener against Arkansas. Kentucky is ranked 18th in the NCAA in stolen bases with 53 which is a huge difference from last year’s 124th ranking. The pitching of Meagan Prince, Shannon Smith and Erin Rethlake will be a key factor for the ‘Cats this weekend as they face one of the top offenses in the SEC.
The Arkansas Razorbacks lead the SEC in home runs per game (1.26) and bring the SEC home run leader Nicole Schroeder to the Bluegrass State this weekend. Stephanie Canfield is eight hits shy of the program record and Schroeder is three RBI short of being top-five. The Razorbacks have used five pitchers this season but Autumn Storms has taken over as of late with a 1.54 ERA in a team-high 77 innings pitched.
Washington and Arizona
The No. 6 Washington Huskies visit the No. 8 Arizona Wildcats in UA’s Pac-12 home-opening series. Both teams enter the series with double-digit win streaks; Arizona has won 14 straight and the Huskies have won 10. This series feature two of the best pitching staff, offenses and defenses. Arizona leads the all-time series 65-31.
Players to watch: Jessie Harper, Michelle Floyd, Katiyana Mauga, Sis Bates, Taran Alvelo, Samantha Manti
Kacie Burnett of Idaho State leads Division I with a .561 batting average with a minimum of 60 at bats. The outfielder is on pace to have her person best in average, hits, doubles, triples, RBI and homers. In 66 at bats, she has 37 hits, five walks, 15 RBI while only striking out four times.
Belmont’s Chelsey Deloney has gotten on base in 11 consecutive at bats. The streak goes back to last weekend’s extra-inning game against Mercer. Between that game and Wednesday’s game against Memphis, seven of those 11 at bats have resulted in a hit-by-pitch. Deloney’s 11 homers have her ranked 5th nationally and leading the Ohio Valley Conference. The Bruins face Eastern Illinois on Friday and SIUE on Sunday.
Mizzou freshman Braxton Burnside broke a 43-year program record last week with 10 RBI in a single game. She is one of three SEC players to record at least 10 RBI in a single now. She leads all SEC freshmen with nine homers, 37 RBI, .795 slugging and 70 total bases. Her eight doubles tie her for first. It might be hard to match her numbers from last week (12 hits, three HR, 18 RBI, 24 total bases and 1.091 slugging) in three games against the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies.
The Wisconsin Badgers cracked FPN’s Top 25 for the second straight week and look to win a series at Northwestern. Freshman Kaitlyn Menz threw the 10th no-hitter in program history on Wednesday against Louisville. Chloe Miller is riding a 12-game hitting streak. She is currently third overall in the nation with a .554 batting average.
James Madison is Good
The JMU Dukes cracked the Top 10 this week and open conference play this weekend at Hofstra. At 24-3 the Dukes have won nine consecutive games and played all 27 games on the road. Megan Good leads the nation in ERA (0.20), shutouts (11) and victories (16).
Libby Sugg powered the BYU softball team over the No. 11 Utah Utes Wednesday night. She hit two two-run homers to clinch a 4-3 victory. It was the Cougars third win over a ranked opponent this year. Up next is a trip to Los Angeles to take on Dartmouth and UCLA in back-to-back doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday. UCLA was swept by Utah last weekend so if BYU can take a game, it will definitely shake things up.
Kansas “Orange Game”
Saturday’s game between Kansas and Baylor at Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park is the “Jayhawks for a Cure” game. The game honors Kansas head coach Megan Smith’s late husband Paul Buske. Buske passed away from kidney cancer in 2011 and in 2013 the shirts for cancer awareness went from pink to orange. Each “Orange Game” starts with the first pitch thrown by Smith’s son Cooper Smith Buske.