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Cardinal softball travels back to desert to meet No. 10 Arizona

After picking up a much-needed victory and confidence booster against Pacific, No. 24 Stanford softball (24-11, 1-5 Pac-12) returns this weekend to the Arizona desert, where the Cardinal will look to pick up some marquee victories against No. 10 Arizona (29-8, 4-5) in their quest for an NCAA postseason berth.

Sophomore Kayla Bonstrom (above) returns to her hometown, which is located just minutes from the Arizona campus, for this weekend's series against the Wildcats. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Sophomore Kayla Bonstrom (above) returns to her hometown, which is located just minutes from the Arizona campus, for this weekend’s series against the Wildcats. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford ended a five-game losing streak by shutting out the Tigers 8-0 in Stockton, Calif., last Friday, sweeping the season series against its Northern California rival. Now, the Cardinal will try to end their Pac-12 slide against the Wildcats in Tucson, Ariz., in Stanford’s second trip to the state of Arizona in the last three weekends.

With the Card’s last trip to the state of Arizona — which ended in a series sweep at the hands of No. 7 Arizona State — fresh on the minds of many around the program, Stanford could really use a good performance against the Wildcats not only to make up ground in the Pac-12 standings, but also to add to its postseason résumé. The Cardinal currently boast an RPI of 42, with its best victory to date coming against Northwestern (RPI of 24) in the Kajikawa Classic. Thus, any wins over Arizona — with its top-10 RPI — would provide a tremendous boost to the Card’s profile.

The Wildcats enter this weekend’s series having also suffered a setback to ASU; Arizona lost two of three to its Territorial Cup rival in Tempe, Ariz. last weekend.

However, while Arizona has only managed a 4-5 record in road contests, the Wildcats have been unbeatable within the friendly confines of Hillenbrand Stadium, notching a perfect record of 19-0 when playing in Tucson this season. Most recently at home, Arizona blasted Oregon State in three straight contests by a combined score of 36-2, triggering the mercy rule in each game. Therefore, the Cardinal will certainly have their hands full against a formidable Pac-12 opponent in what figures to be a raucous atmosphere at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Arizona is led on offense by senior Kellie Fox, who is hitting .416 in 101 at-bats with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs on the season. The UCLA transfer has shined in her first season of competition on the Wildcats’ roster, leading her team in slugging percentage with an .861 mark. The Wildcats’ lineup is also paced by junior Hallie Wilson, as the Santa Ana, Calif. native has batted .404 with 35 RBIs and 8 doubles in 37 starts. Wilson’s patient approach at the plate has also allowed her to post a team-leading 31 walks and an outstanding .543 on-base percentage.

In the circle, the Wildcats have relied on a rotation of five pitchers over the course of the season. All five Arizona pitchers have made at least five starts on the season, with senior Estela Piñon leading the staff in starts and victories. Piñon, a hometown product and former junior college transfer, has posted a 1.51 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 79 innings of work.

In addition, sophomore Nancy Bowling has also had a strong season for the Wildcats. The 2013 Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention selection has not lost in the circle in 2014, with a perfect 6-0 record in 15 total appearances. Bowling has yielded 9 earned runs and 4 extra-base hits in her sophomore campaign.

Fifth-year senior Kenzie Fowler, who has persevered this year following season-ending back surgery in 2013, is a two-time NFCA All-American who attended the same high school as the Cardinal’s star player, Kayla Bonstrom.

As a freshman, Fowler posted one of the finest seasons in Arizona program history, notching an incredible 38-9 record with a 1.53 ERA in a NFCA First Team All-America campaign. Furthermore, as a sophomore, the Tucson native was again recognized as an NFCA All-American, as Fowler posted a 26-9 mark with 243 strikeouts in 213.1 innings of work. This season, Fowler has a 5-3 record and a 2.01 ERA in 7 starts and 17 appearances. Fowler has also only allowed 23 hits in 52.1 innings, compiling 49 strikeouts in the process.

Stanford and Arizona will play on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Hillenbrand Stadium. Friday’s and Saturday’s contests will both start at 6 p.m., while a Sunday matinee at noon will round out the series between the two schools.

Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About David Cohn

David Cohn '15 is currently a Sports Desk Editor. He began his tenure at the Daily by serving as a senior staff writer for Stanford football and softball, and then rose to the position of assistant editor of staff development. He served as the Summer Managing Editor of Sports in 2014. David is a Biology major from Poway, California. In addition to his duties at the Daily, he serves as the lead play-by-play football and softball announcer for KZSU Live Stanford Radio 90.1 FM.