June 6, 2009
Arizona (46-17, 13-7 Pac-10) began the season ranked No.7 in both the NFCA and USA Softball/ESPN polls and, without a proven pitcher, were written off by many at the commencement of the campaign. But riddled with inconsistencies in the circle, Arizona's veteran lineup carried the team through the season, blasting an NCAA-record 134 home runs and a .339 average - second in the nation.
The Cats began the season at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, falling to Kansas and Northwestern but downing UTEP and Nevada, scoring 17 runs through four games - a sign of the times to come. UA's win against Nevada began a 12-game winning streak in which Arizona outscored its opponents 112-19. Sarah Akamine, 7-0 at the time, began to emerge as the team's ace, but lost two extra-inning nail-biters in a three-game series at Texas A&M.
UA rolled through its own 10-game home stand, with its only loss coming to All-American pitcher Tara Oltman and Creighton. The Cats scored another 128 runs in those games. At the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., Stacie Chambers had her 3rd 15+ RBI weekend, giving her USA Softball Player of the Week honors in a 3-2 week for the Cats. Chambers became the first player in UA's history to hit a home run in four consecutive plate appearances.
A come-from-behind sweep of a doubleheader at New Mexico State led into conference play, where UA took three from the Oregon Schools in dominating fashion, scoring an average of 10 runs per game. But the Cats dropped two of their next three, including being no-hit by Washington's Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie, and one-hit by UCLA. Arizona rebounded by winning their next four games, including a thrilling 10-8 victory over ASU and a 12-4 run-ruling of No. 2 Stanford on national television.
UCLA and Washington both took the season series from the Cats the next weekend, but Arizona ripped open an 11-0 win against the eventual national champions on Senior Day, capping a 23-3 home campaign.
Arizona began its season-ending road trip up the I-10 in Tempe, earning a season sweep of Arizona State with a 3-2 and 10-6 victory. The final game against Cal was rained out and UA dropped the next two to Stanford, managing only one hit in the final regular season match up. The Cats tried to halt their longest losing streak of the season, but fell to Oregon in 10 innings and lost three-in-a-row for the second consecutive season. But as they had all season, the Cats rebounded and won the final two games of the regular season in Corvallis against Oregon State, tying the home run record in the final game.
Once again forced to go on the road for the Regional round, Chambers belted record-breaking home run No. 127 against UT Martin in Louisville, Ky. in a 9-3 win. Then the Cats tortured the nation's winningest pitcher in an 18-4 pounding of host Louisville. The next day, Arizona clinched a Super Regional berth against Stanford with a 4-2 win over Purdue.
Back in Palo Alto for the second time in four weeks, the Cats were turned away 6-4 in the first game of the second round. But with their backs against the wall, UA put up seven runs on Cardinal ace Missy Penna in a win to force a deciding Game 3. Then, an unlikely hero emerged for the Wildcats: sophomore pitcher Lindsey Sisk. The Murrieta, Calif. native struck out a career-high 14 batters to keep the Stanford attack at bay, and the Cats once again pounded Penna for six runs in a WCWS-berth-clinching 6-5 breathtaking win.
In Oklahoma City for the 21st time in 22 years, the Wildcats fell in two games, marking the third time in team history that UA had gone two-and-out on softball's grandest stage.
2009 Louisville Regional, Palo Alto Super Regional Champions
The Long Ball: Arizona set an NCAA record with 134 home runs, besting the previous record of 126 set by the 2001 Wildcat squad. Stacie Chambers led the nation with 31 blasts, and 96 RBI. 11 Wildcats hit at least one home run, and 10 hit at least four. Six Cats had double-digit HR numbers.
Career Numbers: Stacie Chambers (31), Jenae Leles (23), Brittany Lastrapes (17), Sam Banister (16), K’Lee Arredondo (13), Victoria Kemp (7) and Lauren Schutzler (5) all set career marks for HRs. Chambers’ was tied for the second most in NCAA history.
Arizona Single Season Home Runs: Chambers, Leles, Lastrapes and Banister all made their mark on this list:
1. 37 – Laura Espinoza, 1995
2. 31 – Stacie Chambers, 2009
3. 30 – Laura Espinoza, 1994
4. 28 – Jenny Dalton, 1995
5. 25 – Lovieanne Jung, 2003
25 – Jenny Dalton, 1996
25 – Toni Mascarenas, 2001
25 – Leah Braatz, 1998
9. 23 – Jenae Leles, 2009
10. 21 – Leah Braatz, 1997
21 – Leah Braatz, 1995
21 – Leneah Manuma, 2002
13. 20 – Leticia Pineda, 1998
20 – Mackenzie Vandergeest, 2001
15. 19 – Leneah Manuma, 2001
16. 18 – Leah Braatz, 1994
17. 17 – Jenae Leles, 2008
17 – Brittany Lastrapes, 2009
19. 16 – Seven tied: Pineda-’97, Dalton-’95, Jennie Finch-’00, Lindsey Collins-’00, Finch-’02, Jung-’02, Sam Banister-‘09
All-Americans: Brittany Lastrapes was named an NFCA first team All-American – her second All-American commendation. Stacie Chambers and Jenae Leles were named to the third team, their first career honors.
All-Pac-10: The same trio also made the Pac-10 first team. Senior first baseman Sam Banister and junior shortstop K’Lee Arredondo were named to the All-Pac-10 second taem. Junior pitcher Sarah Akamine, sophomore centerfielder Lauren Schutzler and freshman designated player Lini Koria made honorable mention. Koria and Kristen Arriola made the Pac-10 All-Freshman team.
All-West Region: Four Wildcats were named to the All-West Region team. Leles, Chambers, Lastrapes and Schutzler eached earned first team honors.
Pac-10 All-Academic: Junior shortstop K’Lee Arredondo and senior outfielder Jill Malina were honored by the Pac-10 for their performances in the classroom. Both made the first team. Sophomore Lauren Schutzler was named to the second team.
The Rankings: For the first time since 1991, Arizona was not ranked No. 1 at any time during the season. The highest Arizona reached in the NFCA or USA Softball Rankings was sixth.
Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award: Jenae Leles was a finalist for the most prestigious award for college seniors. Laine Roth was on the early-season watch list. Leles made the All-Senior All-American first team sponsored by Lowe’s.
B-Good: Brittany Lastrapes had 104 hits this season, tied for fifth on UA’s single-season list. Her 79 runs scored gives her sole possession of eighth on the single-season runs list, and her 19 doubles are tied for third.
Consistency: Not an Arizona trademark year, but UA won at least 45 games for the 22nd time since 1988... And that's the low end of that span. Arizona improved to 10-3 in Super Regional play in its five appearances since the format was adopted for the 2005 NCAA playoffs. The Cats have not lost a best-of-three NCAA series.
HRPG: Not Hand-Rocket-Propelled Grenades, but Home Runs Per Game. Arizona has the NCAA record with its 126 long balls in 2001, at 1.83 per game. This year in 63 games the 134 shakes out at 2.13 per game. Even without another homer, the Wildcats 2009 per-game figure will be an NCAA record. The yard ball is not a stranger to the Wildcat program. Arizona has led the nation in home runs per game eight times including this year -- 1993 (0.69), 1994 (1.39), 1995 (1.39), 1998 (1.11), 2001 (1.83), 2002 (1.39) and 2008 (1.57).
More Jack Smack: Arizona’s 264 runs off home runs are 53 percent of the Wildcats' scoring (499 runs) this year. Without the long ball UA surely would have put some of those runs on the board, but that's some quick-strike plating. The way teams hit yard balls in Super Regionals all over the country, who knows what might happen in ASA Hall of Fame Stadium this week.
Newcomer Home Runs
Mackenzie Vandergeest (Freshman) 20, 2001
Leneah Manuma (Freshman) 19, 2001
Leah Braatz (Freshman) 19, 1995
Lovie Jung (Junior) 16, 2002
Stacie Chambers (Sophomore) 15, 2008
Lini Koria (Freshman) 12, 2009
Random Numbers: Brittany Lastrapes has hit .649 when leading off the first or subsequent innings, with 61 hits in that situation... She also hit .727 with the bases loaded, with eight hits in 11 such at-bats... Another bases-loaded piece of trouble is Stacie Chambers, with nine hits in 14 such at-bats for a .643 mark... The best two-out hitter on the team this year is Lini Koria (.448), with 30 two-out hits... And if there's a runner on third and less than two outs Chambers has driven in runs 19 times in 25 of those situations... Arizona pitchers have issued bases on balls less than two times per seven innings.
Leading the Pack: Stacie Chambers' 31 home runs are the second-most in Division I history, tying her with former UCLA’s Stacey Nuveman in 1999. Arizona has had the national leader in homers eight times -- Laura Espinoza's 30 in 1994 and 37 in 1995, Dalton's 25 in 1996, Leah Braatz' 21 in 1997 and 25 in 1998, Toni Mascarenas' 25 in 2001, Leneah Manuma's 21 in 2002 and Lovie Jung's 25 in 2003. Espinoza was the first player to hit 20 or more (and 30 or more) and really got the long ball going in the game -- it's taken 21 or more to lead the nation since.
Making her Mark: Chambers' 96 RBI are No. 5 on the NCAA single-season chart, giving Arizona eight of the top 10 marks. Actually, she displaced Toni Mascarenas' 84 at No. 10 on the list, so Arizona already had eight of the top 10. Only two non-Arizona players, former UCLA slugger Stacey Nuveman (91 in 1999) and Washington's Jenny Topping (90 in 2000) have had 90 or more. Laura Espinoza has the NCAA record with 128 in '95, followed by Jenny Dalton with 109 in '96, Leah Braatz with 100 in '98, Dalton with 98 in '95, Leticia Pineda with 96 in '96, Espinoza with 95 in '94, Nuveman, Dalton with 91 in '94, and, now, Chambers. Those are some prolific sluggers, and Chambers -- a sophomore -- appears to be the real deal with 46 homers in her career. That pace in the next two seasons would put her at No. 2 on the career chart behind Nuveman's 90 atop the NCAA chart. Stacey eclipsed previous co-leaders Espinoza and Braatz, who had 85.
Standout Performances: Three RBI in one game is a lot. Wildcats have done it individually 66 times this year. But, that's one level. Arizona has 34 4+ RBI games. Think that’s a lot? Stacie Chambers has had 6 5+ RBI games, senior Sam Banister has had three, slugger Jenae Leles has had two, and K’Lee Arredondo tallied her second 5+ RBI game with a two-homer performance against Oregon State on the final day of the regular season. Chambers tallied nine RBI in a Regional win over Louisville.
Turnstiles Turning – Again: Through 16 seasons in Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, Arizona has a record of 491-40, including a home field winning streak of 70 games from May 5, 2000 to April 6, 2002, which is still an NCAA record. In Pac-10 games alone, UA touts a 182-27 record, and has a 51-5 record in NCAA action. Looking at the records, it’s not hard to see what keeps the fans coming back for more. Hillenbrand Stadium’s aggregate attendance mark passed 500,000 last season, helped by the seventh highest attended game in history – a 7-6 Saturday night comeback win against Oregon State on April 26 that attracted 2,844 fans. UA has led the nation in attendance per game in three of the last four seasons.