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Cats Welcome Golden Eagles to Begin 2014 Season
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 02/05/2014
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WEEK 1 (FEB. 7-9): SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI // Hillenbrand Stadium

Arizona Wildcats (0-0) vs. Southern Mississippi (0-0)

THE GAMES

Date                                      Time (PDT)          (Rank) Opponent                             Location

Friday, Feb. 7                     6:00 p.m.             Southern Mississippi                      Hillenbrand Stadium

Saturday, Feb. 8               2:00 p.m.             Southern Mississippi                      Hillenbrand Stadium

Sunday, Feb. 9                  11:00 a.m.           Southern Mississippi                      Hillenbrand Stadium

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THIS WEEK: Arizona (0-0) welcomes Southern Miss (0-0) to beautiful Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium Feb. 7-9 for a three-game series to begin the 2014 campaign. The Cats and the Golden Eagles have met four prior times on the diamond, with Arizona taking three of the four meetings. Arizona will play its first nine games of the season in the friendly confines of Hillenbrand Stadium, where it enjoys a 583-69 (.894) all-time record over 20 seasons. Both teams will look to rebound from disappointing 2013 campaigns that saw Arizona fail to earn a Regional title for just the second time in 26 seasons and Southern Miss finish 27 games under .500.

OPPONENT: The Golden Eagles (0-0) finished 2013 14-41 overall and 4-14 in Conference USA. Morgan McKeever’s .269 batting average leads all returners. McKeever added two home runs and 21 RBI in 2013. Kaitlin Wilson and Emily Wood are the lone returners from a four-person pitching staff that had a 4.47 cumulative ERA. Wilson went 4-12 with a 5.51 ERA in 2013.

ARIZONA AGAINST SOUTHERN MISS: The Wildcats and Golden Eagles have met four previous times, with Arizona taking three of the four contests. The two clubs last met in the 2002 Hillenbrand Invitational where Arizona run-ruled Southern Miss 18-0 in five innings. The Golden Eagles’ lone victory in the series came in 2000 Women’s College World Series when Southern Miss beat Arizona 1-0.

LEADING OFF

- The Wildcats lose only one starter from 2013 and welcome a crop of newcomers that figure to be significant contributors in 2014.

- Kenzie Fowler returns to the circle after redshirting 2013 while recovering from back surgery. The fifth-year senior is already in the Arizona career top-10 in victories (8th - 79) and strikeouts (6th - 794).

- The season-opening, three-game series with Southern Miss marks the first time since 2002 that Arizona has not kicked off the season at a non-conference tournament. This marks the first time in nine seasons that Arizona will not open at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe. In 2002, Arizona swept 16th-ranked Alabama in  three-game series to open the campaign.

- Arizona returns two all-Pac-12 performers, junior 1B/OF Hallie Wilson and junior C Chelsea Goodacre. Wilson hit .372 with an on-base percentage of .476 in 2013 while Goodacre hit 17 home runs, drove in 58 runs and batted .348. Additionally, UA gains the services of two former all-conference performers: P Kenzie Fowler and SS Kellie Fox. Fowler, an all-conference performer in 2010 and 2011, sat out last season while recovering from back surgery. Fox was named first-team all-Pac-10 as a freshman at UCLA in 2011. The shortstop transferred to Arizona prior to last season but had to redshirt the season due to NCAA transfer rules; she will have two years of eligibility at Arizona.

- The Cats have nine newcomers this season in addition to Kenzie Fowler and Kellie Fox. Fox and freshmen Mo Mercado and Katiyana Mauga figure to bolster the middle of Arizona’s lineup while Fowler and freshman Michelle Floyd add to an already solid pitching staff which returns all three hurlers from a season ago.

- Arizona’s 22-person roster includes eight transfers. P Estela Piñon and C/1B Kelsey Rodriguez transferred from Yavapai College and Pacific, respectively, prior to the 2013 season and each made tremendous impacts last season. UCLA transfer SS Kellie Fox figures to be the next impact transfer; Fox hit .295 with 15 homers and 67 RBI in two seasons with the Bruins.

- The Wildcats shuffled their coaching staff this season to give them an all-Wildcat assistant coaching staff. Cailtin Lowe, who served as Arizona’s director of operations in 2013, will be UA’s volunteer assistant coach this season, coaching outfielders and slappers. Mark Blair, who held the position last season, will serve as the director of operations. Lowe (2004-07) joins Alicia Hollowell (2003-06) and Stacy Iveson (1986-89) as former Wildcats on the staff. Graduate assistant coach Jessica Spigner played for Arizona in 2012 as well.

- Hallie Wilson, who hit .372 with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 24 RBI a season ago, was named to the USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List; it marks her second consecutive year on the list.

- Arizona is unranked in the preseason polls for the first time in the polls’ history, dating back 25 years. The Wildcats are receiving the 27th-most votes in the NFCA poll and 26th in the USA Softball Top 25.

HEAD COACH MIKE CANDREA: Arizona head coach Mike Candrea is in his 29th year at the helm of the Arizona softball program with a career record of 1,343-322-2 (.806). A winner of eight national championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2006, 2007), Arizona has made 22 trips to the Women’s College World Series under his guidance, missing just four times in the last 26 years (2004, 2011, 2012). In 2012, Candrea became the sport’s fastest ever, and second all-time, to reach 1,300 wins. Under Candrea, Arizona has a spectacular postseason record of 152-47. An even 50 All-Americans with a staggering 90 total citations have played in the program since Candrea took over.

THE RANKINGS: Arizona is receiving votes in both the preseason USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll and the preseason ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25. This is the first time since the NFCA began publishing polls in the early 90s that Arizona has been unranked in the preseason poll.

RECENT RESULTS: The Cats were eliminated from the 2013 postseason when they posted a 1-2 record at the College Station Regional, ultimately being ousted by Baylor. After being defeated by Baylor in the regional’s first game, UA, down to its final out and down a run, came back to defeat Penn in extra innings to stay alive before ultimately seeing its season end in an 8-4 loss to Baylor.

5/17/13 - Cats Fall in Regional Opener : Arizona allowed four runs in the first inning and was shutout by Baylor pitcher Whitney Canion as Baylor cruised to an NCAA Regional opening victory, 7-0 on Friday at Aggie Softball Complex.

Both Arizona and Baylor scattered six hits in the contest, but UA pitchers issued six walks to BU’s zero. The Wildcats stranded eight runners on base.

5/18/13 - Arizona Eliminated by Baylor : The Arizona softball season came to a close Saturday when it was upended by Baylor 8-4 in an elimination contest in the College Station Regional after the Cats defeated Penn 3-2 in extras to extend its season.

The loss marks the first time that Arizona has failed to make it out of regionals since 2004.

The Cats’ 33 wins on the season mark the fewest since winning 27 games in 1986 while its 26 losses are most in program history.

WHO’S HOT:

Chelsea Goodacre: Goody hit nine home runs during Arizona’s fall season, a figure that would be solid for an entire spring season, but Goodacre did it in just 24 at-bats. The junior hit .708 in the eight games and drove in 28 runs. Her slugging percentage? A ridiculous 1.917.

Courtney Rodriguez: After hitting just .127 in 36 starts as a freshman, C-Rod led the team with a .727 batting average in the fall. Rodriguez, who will be in the mix for Arizona’s starting right field position, drove in seven runs in the fall after driving in five all of last season.

Hallie Wilson: Wilson batted .696 during the fall and scored a team-best 15 runs in the eight games. The junior had a double, triple and homer while driving in nine runs. The Santa Ana, Calif., native also drew five walks and was hit by a pitch, helping her to a .759 on-base percentage.

Katiyana Mauga: In her first action in an Arizona uniform, Mauga homered in four of her 20 at-bats and drove in 12 runs in the eight games. The freshman doubled and scored 11 times, as well. The San Diego native walked six times, a team high.

Michelle Floyd: The freshman led Arizona with three games started in the fall and did not allow a run. Floyd gave up just two hits and walked only one batter in her 10 innings pitched. The San Marino, Calif., native struck out 11 batters and led the team with a 3-0 record in the fall.

NEARING THE CENTURY MARK: Kenzie Fowler has 79 career wins, eighth most in program history. With 21 wins in 2014, Fowler would become the eighth pitcher in Wildcat history to reach the 100-win milestone (Alicia Hollowell - 134, Nancy Evans - 124, Jennie Finch - 119, Carrie Dolan - 103, Becky Lemke - 103, Susie Parra - 101 and Taryne Mowatt - 100). Fowler is also on pace to become the fourth pitcher in school history to strike out one thousand batters.

HOME SWEET HOME: In 2013, the Wildcats posted a 20-7 record in the friendly confines of Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium. Since its opening in 1993, Arizona has put up a 583-69 record on the field. That’s a .904 winning percentage at home in the last 20 years. Hillenbrand has led the nation in attendance nine times since 1994 and set the NCAA record in attendance in 2011 when 77,129 fans turned the turnstiles. For the fifth consecutive season, Arizona drew over 2,000 fans per game in 2013. In 21 home dates last year, the Wildcats drew 2,202 fans.

FRESH FACES: The 2014 Arizona roster features nine newcomers. Five of the nine newbies are transfers -- Nikki Dunlap (Texas Tech), Payton Kornfeind (Colorado at Colorado Springs), Cynthia Pelayo (Pima College), Siera Phillips (Dixie State) and Erika Tapia (Paradise Valley Community College) -- and four are freshmen -- Michelle Floyd (San Marino, Calif.), Katiyana Mauga (San Diego, Calif.), Mo Mercado (Temecula, Calif.) and Eva Watson (Victoria, Va.).

FAMILY TIES: Prior to last season, head coach Mike Candrea had never had sisters come through the program, in 2014, he has two pairs. Siblings Kelsey and Courtney Rodriguez are the first pair of sisters to ever be on the same Wildcat team. UCLA transfer Kellie Fox is the sister of former Wildcat shortstop and two-time national champion Kristie Fox (04-07). Additionally, third baseman Lauren Young’s brother Brandon is one of the team’s managers.

UP NEXT: The Wildcats welcome Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Tennessee State, Georgia Tech and Alabama for the Hillenbrand Invitational Feb. 13-16.         

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