Arizona Softball Preview for 2022, Cats play SEC Powerhouse Alabama Early

Carlie Cupin is the Gatorade Arizona Softball Player of the Year.Pni Youth Softball 0501
Carlie Cupin is the Gatorade Arizona Softball Player of the Year.Pni Youth Softball 0501 /

Former Wildcat Caitlin Lowe is preparing for her first full season with the Wildcats as head coach of the Arizona Softball Program.

Arizona Softball heads into the 2022 season coming off of a 41-15 record in 2021, making it to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City (OKC) before losing to a very good Florida State team that would go on to the play in the final game against Oklahoma.

The Wildcats finished the year fifth in the loaded Pac-12 Conference in 2021 just missing fourth place behind ASU by just one game.

With the loss of such a large, stellar senior class, as well as head coach Mike Candrea, expect a lot of new and some familiar faces in 2022 as Caitlin Lowe takes over as head coach, while Lauren Lappin becomes the Wildcats’ assistant.

Here is a break-down of the roster by class for 2022:

  • Freshman – 4
  • Sophomore – 10
  • Junior – 1
  • Senior – 2
  • Graduate Student – 1

The Cats will open the season by hosting the Candrea Classic Tournament which features the host Wildcats along with Alabama, New Mexico, and Southern Utah. Here is Arizona’s schedule for the tournament:

  • February 10th (Thursday) – Southern Utah, 6:00 pm MST
  • February 11th (Friday) – Southern Utah, 6:00 pm MST
  • February 12th (Saturday) – Alabama, 6:00 pm, MST
  • February 13th (Sunday) – New Mexico, 2:00 pm MST

Every Arizona Softball fan will be looking forward to the match-up against Alabama and I expect a packed house full of energized fans prepared to create a hostile environment for the visiting Crimson Tide.

In the history of match-ups between The Wildcats & Crimson Tide, the Cats own the series 11 games to 7; however, Arizona struggled recently as they played one of the best, if not the best pitcher in NCAA Softball and as Alabama head coach, Patrick Murphy calls her, Montana Fouts, the face of NCAA Softball.

I am sure the Arizona coaching staff will look at plenty of Montana Fouts film and use lessons learned from the last time they faced her in the Women’s College World Series and struggled. I am sure Arizona’s staff will have the Cats prepared for the early season game featuring two of the NCAA’s best programs.

With Arizona Softball once again facing lofty expectations this year, here are some things to look forward to with the upcoming season!

My Three Key Players for Arizona in 2022 :

Be on the lookout for sophomore starting Centerfielder Janelle “Nelly” Meono, Sophomore Catcher Sharlize Palacious, and Senior Pitcher Hanah Bowen.

Meono and Palacious are both currently in Florida trying out for Team USA; however, both will return to Tucson stronger after going through the experience and, hopefully, become Team USA members joining a long list of proud Arizona Softball Alumni to wear the Red, White & Blue.

Meono was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the year in 2021 and earned honors making Pac-12 All First-Team. She even had a very impressive 27-game hitting streak last season.

Palacious shared time with senior (and Olympian) Dejah Mulipola behind the plate last season, and with Mulipola now graduated, in 2022 the bomber will run things behind the plate. In 2021, Sharlize batted .348 with 18 HR and 57 RBIs.

I expect Senior Pitcher Hanah Bowen to step up in a big way as a leader. I look forward to her fist-pumping fire in the circle. Bowen is 19-5 in the circle for her career, splitting time at pitcher and second base her first three seasons.

However, I fully expect Lowe to use Bowen solely as a pitcher in 2022. Bowen should be considered the “Ace” of the staff heading into this season. Also, Hanah can swing the bat if called upon in such a role.

New Surprises and Positional Changes in 2022:

I expect incoming Ole Miss transfer and Southern Arizona native sophomore Blaise Biringer to take over the starting role at second base for the recently graduated Reyna Carranco.

Sophomore Allie Skaggs will likely play a big role as a Utility player for the Cats while being used as a Designated Player for her powerful bat. Skaggs hit a huge, two-run pinch-hit home run on the road against Oregon last year to lift the Cats to a 4-3 victory in Eugene.

Now at third base, I expect there to be significant competition ahead of the season as the Wildcats look for a replacement to the recently graduated Malia Martinez. Senior Hannah “Peanut” Martinez will likely win the starting job but expect her to be challenged by freshman Amber Toven.

Another player that I expect to be key and an RBI producer is first baseman and Tucsonan sophomore Carlie Scupin. Scupin has tremendous power, can hit the long ball, and has also shown she can produce a base hit when her team needs one to keep a rally going. Scupin batted a stellar .343 in her freshman season.

Lastly, Arizona fans should expect sophomore Sophia Carroll to become the starter at Shortstop with Jessie Harper now graduated.

Winning Starts Inside the Circle:

Arizona will need sustained, strong pitching from sophomores Devyn Netz, Jessie Fontes, as well as freshman Madi Elish behind Bowen if they are going to succeed this season.

Elish, a native of Crown Point, IN arrives in Tucson with high hopes and a very good scouting report. Now, just how much responsibility in the circle head coach Caitlin Lowe and pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney going to give Elish, is yet to be determined.

Patrolling the Outfield: 

I expect sophomore Jasmine Perezchica to start in left field, and sophomore Giulia Koutsoyanopulos to start in right field even though she is listed on the roster as a Utility player.

Giulia played outfield as a member of the Italian National Team in the Olympics and made spectacular catches patrolling centerfield for the Italians.

Giulia has also proven herself as a defender at first base backing up Scupin and has impressive speed on the base paths. However, freshman Paige Dimler may win out the starting Right Fielder job.

If that happens, expect Giulia to see plenty of playing time in a utility role along with Skaggs. Arizona’s use  and management of Utility Players will be important in Lowe’s first season. I have a feeling we will see more base stealing in 2022!

As for Perezchica, she has proven herself as a good and reliable defender with speed and intelligence along the base paths.

Overall, I am looking for improved Slapper play from Perezchica in 2022, after all, she is learning from one of the best Slappers ever to play the game, her head coach.

The Cats will follow the Candrea Classic Tournament by hosting the Hillenbrand Invitational Tournament from February 18th – February 20th. The following teams will play in Tucson for this tournament: Arizona, Kentucky, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State, and Loyola Marymount.

Arizona Athletics has not released television or streaming information for the two tournaments at this time. As always, Bear Down Arizona and GO Cats!

Related Story. Arizona Softball: Local players return home and Fall Classic Games Scheduled. light