Mississippi State Coach Samantha Ricketts facing his super regional counterpart Caitlin Lowe and pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney in another super regional 14 years ago when all three were in college.
Arizona beat Oklahoma and Ricketts in two out of three games at Hillenbrand Stadium in 2008 to reach the Women’s College World Series. Mowatt-McKinney and Ricketts were seniors.
Lowe was a senior at Arizona in 2007 when the Wildcats lost two games to the Sooners at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif.
When Arizona beat Oklahoma 5-2 in the deciding game of the super regional championship in 2008, Ricketts hit a home run against Mowatt-McKinney – the game-winning pitcher who struck out six, walked twice and scattered eight hits in a full game performance.
Ricketts also played against Arizona’s third base coach Lauren Rabbit during their professional softball career.
“You look at this coaching staff, I had the opportunity to play all three of them and they all played at a high level,” Ricketts said Thursday at a press conference.
Ricketts was respectful of Arizona’s schedule when asked about this weekend’s best-of-three game, which begins Friday at 9 a.m. at Mississippi State’s Nusz Park. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
“We know that coming into this series and playing a very rich program like the Arizona Wildcats, it’s really an honor to be in a super regional against a program with the type of history that they have” , said Ricketts. “I know for me and for a lot of those girls on the team, we grew up watching them play in the World Series. Just for a program that’s been around year after year, I think we have a lot of respect for them.
“That’s also our goal as a program, to be a team that’s in a Super Regional and working towards a World Series year after year.”
Mississippi State (37-25) reached the super regional round for the first time after upsetting No. 2 Florida State last weekend in the Tallahassee Regional (Florida).
Arizona (36-20) is in its eighth straight Super Regional, 16th overall in the 17 years since the round’s inception.
“We’re excited about this opportunity, but I think our focus is always on us and our dugout,” said Ricketts, in her third season as head coach. “We will respect our opponent. We will prepare them. We’re going to take it seriously, but we know we have to focus on what we can control and that’s every pitch we throw or look to hit into the box.
Bulldogs receiver Mia Davidson and left fielder Chloe Malau’ulu (daughter of former Arizona quarterback George Malau’ulu) are the team leaders as All-SEC and NFCA All-South Region selections.
Davidson is the career leader of the SEC. His 90 home runs rank fifth in NCAA history. She leads the SEC with 21 homers and had the highest on-base percentage (.580) in conference play.
Malau’ulu was tied for third in the conference with eight league doubles. His .352 batting average led the Bulldogs in SEC play, and his .535 slugging percentage and .465 on-base percentage were second only to Davidson.
Ricketts said she was impressed with Arizona’s overall play – “They’re basically a strong team,” she said – mentioning that the Wildcats’ hitting, pitching and defensive power has lately caught his attention.
Arizona is coming off back-to-back shutouts at Missouri in the Columbia (Mo.) Regional last weekend behind all-game performances by Hanah Bowen and Devyn Netzdecisive home runs by Carlie Scupin and Sharlize Palaciosand a defense that made no mistakes.
What particularly fascinates Ricketts is Arizona’s ability to advance this far despite an 0-8 start in the Pac-12.
“When you watch them and what they did, especially in the Pac 12 game, starting 0-8 and then running like they did, it reminds me of our team last year,” Ricketts said. , whose team started the SEC season. 0-13 last year before finishing 8-15 and advancing to the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional in which the Bulldogs lost in the championship round to host Oklahoma State.
“I know the courage and determination it takes to turn things around when things are going your way and you’re in that 0-8 or 0-13 hole in conference play,” Ricketts said. “I’m excited. I think it will be too tough and brave teams to compete and give their best.
“We are excited to go on the pitch with them.”
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Javier Morales, publisher, writer and editor of ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com, is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News, and Baseball America, among many other publications. He is also the author of the book “The Highest Life Form”, which is available on Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is currently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.