Oklahoma State set to host red-hot Arizona in NCAA super regionals

May 23—For the second consecutive season, Oklahoma State welcomes the winner of the Fayetteville Regional to town with a trip to Oklahoma City on the line, and for the second straight season, that team isn't Arkansas.

The Cowgirls swept Oregon in the 2023 Super Regional round to secure a fourth-consecutive Women's College World Series appearance. The scenario is similar for 2024, this time with the Arizona Wildcats.

Arizona sailed through the regional round with a perfect 3-0 record, beating Villanova twice and the hosting Razorbacks once.

Though Arizona isn't a nationally seeded team, it has the resume of one and it certainly has the history. The super regional round was added to NCAA Softball in 2005, and this marks the Wildcats' 17th appearance in the supers out of 19 opportunities.

Arizona is a historic mainstay at the biggest stage — it's 36 WCWS appearances and eight titles both ranking second all-time behind UCLA.

"We're fully aware of who's in front of us," OSU head coach Kenny Gajewski said. "We have a ton of respect for them, not only their current team but their place in history in our game."

It's rare for a nationally seeded team ranked so highly to run into Arizona before OKC, but that's what Oklahoma State has in store.

After starting 16-1 in the first 17 games, the Wildcats crashed and burned in the month of March, going 6-10-1 with losses to Alabama, Louisville, Oregon State, Washington, Cal and Stanford.

Arizona has won 15 of 20 games since, and is 10-3 in its last 13 games heading into Stillwater.

The Offense: This is by far Arizona's strength. As a team, the Wildcats rank 13th nationally in batting average (.331) and runs per game (6.31).

It's an evenly-distributed output up and down the lineup.

Outfielder Dakota Kennedy, utility player Allie Skaggs and utility player Regan Shockey were all named first-team Pac-12 selectees. Shockey leads the team in batting average, hits, at bats and stolen bases while Kennedy and Skaggs resemble two of the four Wildcats to hit 13+ home runs this season.

Gajewski used two words to describe the Arizona offense; "power and speed."

The Pitching: The Wildcats win and lose games based off the performance of their pitching, which has been a heavy downfall at times this season. A 3.70 team ERA ranks 150th in the country (compared to OSU's 1.99 ERA which is 13th in the country).

Sophomore Aissa Silva and Senior Miranda Stoddard have started 42 of the team's 54 games this season, and they have very comparable numbers. Both with ERA's in the 3.00-3.99 range, between 125 and 150 innings, 140 hits allowed compared to 137 and 66 earned runs compared to 70. The biggest difference comes with Silva's 109 punchouts opposed to Stoddard's 47.

The Magic Number: Six runs seems to be the sweet spot for success on either side this weekend. Arizona is averaging 6.31 runs per game and Oklahoma State is at 6.05. When Oklahoma State scores six or more runs in a game, it is 31-2, and 16-8 when scoring less than six runs.

Arizona is 29-3 when scoring six or more runs and 8-13-1 when scoring less than that. The good news for the Cowgirls is that they've allowed six or more runs in a game just six times this year, but their record is 1-5 in those games.

Series history: Friday's game will mark the 35th all-time meeting between these two teams. Arizona holds the advantage with a 21-13 record, and it has dominated as of late — winning 16 of the last 19 against Oklahoma State.

This is the eighth meeting in the postseason, and though Arizona is 4-3 in the previous seven, OSU won the most recent matchup. In the opening round of the 2022 WCWS, the Cowgirls prevailed over the Wildcats behind a Karli Petty three-run home run in the sixth inning to win 4-2.

What Oklahoma State is saying about the matchup


"It's an honor to be here. First off, this is not easy. It's not a right. We talk about that. It's a privilege and these kids have earned it. They put us in an awesome position again to be one step away from the main goal. And that's getting back to OKC."

"They look like they don't play with any fear. I think they're well coached, I think they think they can win. They have a lot of pieces, and it should be a fight."

"I think if we pitch and play catch the way we can, the way we've done all year, and we take the at bats that we can take, I think we have as good a chance as any to advance."

What Arizona is saying about the matchup

"Obviously, (Lexi) Kilfoyl is a great ace for them, but really the depth is key there," coach Caitlin Lowe said. "I think they're coached really well. They have a lot of great hitters."

Game one is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Cowgirl Stadium with game two scheduled for at 6 p.m. Saturday. If game three is necessary, the start time will be announced closer to Sunday.

With a series win, Oklahoma State would find itself in OKC for the fifth consecutive time. Arizona missed the postseason last year, but went to three straight WCWS before that.