Arizona Softball

Arizona softball ranked No. 5 in preseason poll

Danielle O’Toole at the Team USA tryout camp. (Photo courtesy USA Softball)

The Arizona Wildcats softball team, trying to get back to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2010, has been picked fifth in a preseason poll by

That’s first among Pac-12 schools.

Oklahoma, Florida State, Florida and Michigan held the top four spots, in that order.

Starting in fall practice, Arizona coach Mike Candrea has been touting the virtues of this team, which is led by senior pitcher Danielle O’Toole, who recently was selected for the U.S. National Team.

Candrea has a large squad that is boosted by the return from ACL injury of slugging redshirt freshman outfielder Alyssa Palomino and the arrival of two freshmen who earned spots on the U.S. Junior National Team — catcher Dejah Mulipola and infielder Jessie Harper.

“It’s been a while since I walked in at this stage and felt like I didn’t have a lot of question marks — or if we did have a question mark, that I had an answer to it,” Candrea said at the beginning of preseason practice. “And I think this group right here has kind of allowed that.”

Arizona reached the Super Regionals last season, winning Game 1 at Auburn before dropping the next two.

“This team, I think, has more quality depth,” Candrea said.

“That has allowed us to become more competitive. … We have options that we didn’t have. I think offensively, you’re going to see a team that can be deep 1 through 9; I think we can be deep 1 through 15.

“If someone is struggling, you don’t have to see them through an 0-for-15, you can put someone else in. I feel there is very little let-down from the kids that are going to be starting the game to the kids we’re going to be bringing off the bench. It’s been a long time since we’ve been at this point. I feel really good about this team.

“I think they have the skill set, the chemistry, the competitiveness, to really battle through a good year. And now we’re going to have to see how well they battle come test-time.”

Arizona opens the season Feb. 9 against Fordham at the Hillenbrand Invitational on campus.

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