May 13, 2009
Cats Open NCAAs in Bluegrass State
Up Next: After finishing third place (13-7) in the Pac-10 for the second consecutive season, the No. 6 Arizona Wildcats (41-14) were seeded ninth in the NCAA Softball Championship and will take on the University of Tennessee at Martin to open the Louisville, Ky. Regional. Host Louisville will take on the Purdue Boilermakers following the UA-UTM game. All Arizona games will be broadcasted on KCUB 1290 AM, with David Kelly calling the play-by-play,
Friday, May 15 (All Games at Ulmer Stadium, University of Louisville) (All Times ET)
Game 1 - Arizona vs. UT-Martin, 4 p.m.
Game 2 - Louisville vs. Purdue, 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 17
Game 3 - Winners Game 1/Game 2, 10 a.m.
Game 4 - Losers Game 1/Game 2, Noon
Game 5 - Loser Game 3/Winner Game 4, 3 p.m
Sunday, May 18
Game 5 - Winners Game 3/Game 5, 2 p.m.
Game 6 - If necessary - Rematch of Game 5, 4 p.m.
Noting the Skyhawks: UTM (38-22), champions of the Ohio Valley Conference, are batting .277 as a team, with a respectable 55 home runs on the season. The Skyhawks are led by junior Megan Williams, with a .340 average and 34 RBI. The Murfreesboro, Tenn. native has collected a team-high 65 hits including four triples. Freshman Jenny Bain swings a big stick, with 14 home runs and a .613 slugging percentage. Laura Roberts, a junior hitting .287, has knocked in a team-high 42 runs on the season. In the circle, senior Kara Harper (20-8) has compiled a 1.69 ERA in 194.1 innings pitched. Junior Paij Lintz (11-7) has struck out 100 in just over 128 innings tossed. Two other Skyhawks have seen limited action.
Noting the Cardinals: Louisville (47-9) - of the Big East conference - was not seeded in the NCAA Softball Championship, but was ranked 19th in the latest NFCA poll. Junior Melissa Roth spearheads the UL offense, batting .431 with 16 home runs and 51 RBI - all team-highs. Her offensive statistics better her teammates in almost every category. Sophomore Chelsea Bemis (.382), sophomore Colby Wherry(.362) and freshman Kristin Austin (.352) are all also batting over .350. Sydney, Australia native Kristen Wadwell (40-8) touts a 1.39 ERA, scattering 223 hits in 298 innings pitched. The junior has started 38 of the teams 56 games, striking out 244 and has given up only 11 home runs on the season. Wadwell holds opponents to a .207 batting average, but has plunked 33 batters.
Noting the Boilermakers: Purdue (29-18), from the Big Ten Conference, is led by junior Liane Horiuchi and her .348 batting average. The junior from Hawaii has the team’s highest slugging percentage at .614, and is perfect on steal attempts this season (38-for-38). Senior Candace Curtis (.305) and freshman Molly Garst (.300) round out the top three in terms of batting average on the squad. Curtis has the team-high 47 hits and 27 RBI. Every Purdue regular has tallied at least two stolen bases. Senior Katie Mitchell has slammed 10 home runs, double her nearest competitor. Sophomore Suzie Rzegocki (23-11) has compiled a 1.40 ERA in the circle, with 184 strikeouts in 224.2 inning pitched. Opponents have scattered 150 hits off of her stuff, but she has tossed 23 complete games, more than the entire Arizona pitching staff combined. Canyon Del Oro graduate and Pima Community College alum Dana Alcocer (4-7) has pitched 73.2 innings, and touts a 4.85 ERA.
Note: Arizona’s next home run will break the NCAA Record of 126, set by the 2001 national championship team.
Track the Cats: Free GameTracker live stats sponsored by Tucson Electric Power, are provided for all home games and many road games (depending on Internet access) via arizonaathletics.com. Many road opponents provide the service through their web sites as well. All-Access video streaming of home games also is available through UA’s web site. A number of games will be broadcast by KCUB 1290 AM Radio. Those games are noted on the schedule on the first page.
Top of the Line Coaching: Arizona's coaching staff includes three mentors who have taken a combined 27 different teams to the Women's College World Series as head coaches -- Mike Candrea's 19, one by assistant Larry Ray (filling in for Candrea during the 2008 Olympic year) and seven by assistant Teresa Wilson. Thrown in former UA star Amy Hillenbrand (née Chellevold), the volunteer coach and first Wildcat to be named an All-American all four years of her playing days (1992-95), and you add four WCWS as a player and five more as an assistant to Candrea from 1996-2000. That's a whole lot of teaching at the top level of the game. It's as good a staff as exists in collegiate softball, and arguably the best. Candrea's leadership and strategy (notably defense), Ray's short game and outfield teaching, Wilson's pitching expertise and Hillenbrand's bat work and base running fundamentals give Arizona the full complement.
Arizona Head Coach Mike Candrea: Candrea enters his 24th season at the helm of the Arizona softball program. He boasts a 1,172-242-2 (.831) record in his 22nd season in the dugout. In the two seasons away from Tucson, he coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in Athens, Greece and a silver in Beijing, China. He was named a finalist for USOC Coach of the Year on March 19, 2008, and won the award in 2004. In January, he was inducted into the inaugural Hall Of Fame class at Central Arizona College. Candrea also was awarded the Olympic Shield award, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s most prestigious award, marking the first time in history the award was given to an Olympic coach. He has led Arizona to eight national championships, 10 Pac-10 titles and is one of just five Division I coaches to have won over 1,100 career games.
Assistant Coach Larry Ray: In 2008, Ray assumed the position of interim head coach and took the team to their 20th WCWS appearance in 21 years. Ray has a 265-131 (.669) career record as a head coach, and five NCAA Championships as an assistant. He possesses a powerful combination of head coaching experience and familiarity with Arizona softball. Ray spent five years as Florida’s first head coach, and in 1998 he was named the SEC Coach of the Year after leading the Gators to an SEC Eastern Division title and a trip to the NCAA Regional Championships. He returned to Arizona in 2002, and in 2004 he led the Wildcats to a 55-6 record and a Pacific-10 Championship.
Assistant Coach Teresa Wilson: Wilson joined the staff in October after establishing herself as a nationally recognized mentor at four programs as head coach. She has 15 years of Pac-10 head coaching experience and most recently held the reigns at Texas Tech, after stints at Oregon, Minnesota and Washington. Wilson has led her teams to seven WCWS appearances and took Washington to 10 final top-15 standings in the polls. The Pickering, Mo. native pitched at Missouri, earning All-American honors her senior year after leading the Tigers to an AIAW and two WCWS appearances. She is the first person to both play and coach in the WCWS.
Volunteer Assistant Amy Hillenbrand: Hillenbrand has worked as an elite athlete representative for the ASA board of directors for the last 10 years, and also sat on the board oversight committee. She has also served on the selection committee for the U.S Women's National Team since 2004, and now serves as the athlete representative to the U.S. Olympic Committee for the sport of softball. On the playing side, Hillenbrand left the college game in 1995 as the NCAA career leader in hits (371) and runs (252), plus finished at UA with a career batting average of .415, the top mark on Arizona's chart until Alison McCutcheon eclipsed her mark in 1998. Hillenbrand's career average is one of only nine Wildcats above .400.
Knocking Them In: Arizona’s 422 RBI are fifth-best in UA history, with no chance at the record 566 by the juggernaut Cats of 1995. Stacie Chambers leads the team and the nation with 86 ribbies, an average of 1.56 per contest. Trailing her are Jenae Leles (62) and leadoff hitter Brittany Lastrapes (56).
Arizona's Typical Batting Order:
Brittany Lastrapes - lf
K'Lee Arredondo - ss
Jenae Leles - 3b
Stacie Chambers - c
Sam Banister - 1b
Lini Koria - dp
Lauren Schutzler - cf
Karissa Buchanan - rf
This was the normal card at the end of the year, and the 29th or 32nd different batting order depending on the second base choice. Lastrapes led off all but one game when she hit second. Arredondo missed 20 games with a hamstring problem and that affected the order, too, with Schutzler hitting in the second hole in 12 games, Arriola in 10. Koria was tried in spots 4 through 8.
The Law of Averages: Arizona's .339 team batting average is its best since 1998, although clearly the toughest part of the year is ahead. Still, the 510 hits have helped UA post the sixth-best BA in its history, if it holds. The 2004 club hit .338 to hold the current No. 6 spot.
Walk, Don’t Run: The 2009 Cats have drawn 238 bases on balls, also in the historical top five in Arizona annals, at No. 4. The '95 club was walked 287 times, with 248 in 2002 and 244 in 2001. Jenae Leles' 39 free passes are No. 9 on the individual season chart.
Small-Ball: With all the balls flying out of the park, Arizona has not been a short-game team enough to generate sacrifice hits. The team's 22 sacs are its lowest ever in its Division I history, one less than the final 23 put down by the other 126-homer club, the 2001 Cats. That was the one and only time the team had less than 30 in its 28 years of Division I play. The long ball also has trimmed Arizona's base stealing. The club has 28 in 35 attempts, a nice percentage but the lowest season total since the 1986 club swiped only 11 and the second-lowest total for UA since the game became a Division I sport.
Big Sluggers: The Cats' 83 doubles are the eighth-most in the program's history, one reason the team's current .651 slugging percentage entering NCAA play is its best by 43 percentage points over the '95 sluggers' final .608 mark. That team and the 1994 club (.602) are the only Wildcat teams to eclipse the .600 level.
Ouch: Arizona is likely to break its mark for season hit-by-pitches, with its 43 plonks tying the 2002 team's mark. The bruises are spread around, with six players being clipped four or more times led by a pair of sevens from freshmen Kristen Arriola and Lini Koria.
Even Spread: Arizona has had three pitchers win 10 or more games in a season only twice. Sarah Akamine's 19-6, Lindsey Sisk's 12-4 and Jennifer Martinez 10-4 marks did it this year. In 1994 Susie Parra (33-1). Nancy Evans (17-0) and Carrie Dolan (11-2) pulled it off.
On That Note…: The program hasn't had a team ERA over 1.77, either, and Akamine, Sisk and Martinez combine for a 2.81 mark -- Akamine at 2.37, Martinez at 2.61 and Sisk at 3.69. Their job is to keep it close and let Arizona's bats do the work -- hence plenty of pitching changes. They have only 21 complete games between them and 90 combined appearances in 55 games… But, Akamine was recruited primarily as a hitter (she had two grand slams in a game as a frosh), Sisk is a sophomore counted on primarily as a backup starter and Martinez has pitched at three schools and played at Arizona just this one season after sitting out last year as a transfer. By way of some explanation, the Cats had a key front-line pitcher leave school before ever throwing, prior to the 2008 season.
B-Money: It has to get tougher, but Brittany Lastrapes' .458 batting average would stack up as the ninth-best in UA history, a feat that would put her in select company. Everyone on the UA top 10 was a first-team All-American for those years, topped by NCAA career hits leader Alison Johnsen McCutcheon with .534 in 1997 (3 spots), Caitlin Lowe, Amy Chellevold (2 spots), Autumn Champion, Jenny Dalton, Leah O'Brien and Lovie Jung. Those are Honda Award winners, Olympians, Pac-10 players of the year, etc. They earned a combined 18 NFCA first-team All-America honors. In order to hit the chart, Lastrapes needs a final .443 mark to displace Amy Chellevold's mark in 1995 at No. 10. Among Arizona's many storied for-average hitters, only Autumn Champion led the NCAA in season hitting, with her .489 mark in 2004. McCutcheon came close, losing out to Kim Durce of Alcorn State (.539) in '97 -- when Alison had an NCAA-record (still stands) 132 hits compared to a 48-for-89 mark by Durce.
Runs and More Runs: Arizona has scored 451 runs, the most since the home-run (126) juggernaut team of 2001 cross the plate 479 times. It's a pace (8.2 rpg) that could challenge the 500 level, achieved four times in UA history, notably by the 1995 powerhouse team (66-6) that scored 629 runs in 72 games (8.74 rpg). Some of it has to do with how many games are left to play, but no matter what the 2009 team will go down as a prolific scoring squad. Individually, leadoff hitter Brittany Lastrapes 67 runs are well within the reach of the Arizona single-season chart, probably the toughest category to get your name on other than single-season hits. No. 9 on the runs chart are home run queen Laura Espinoza who crossed the plate 75 times in 1995 and slugger Leah Braatz, who scored 75 times in 1998. Brittany actually has a chance to hit that aforementioned hits list, too. She has 87 and need 7 more to tie Alison McCutcheon who had 94 in 1996. Reaching either one of those categories at Arizona puts your name alongside only multiple All-Americans. The season hits chart has seven players who were named All-America a combined 24 times; the season runs chart has eight players who were named All-America 28 times.
Almost There: Brittany Lastrapes needs only four runs to reach the UA single-season scoring chart. She has 71, four behind 75 put up by Leah Braatz in 1998 and Laura Espinoza in 1995. They're tied at No. 9. Jenny Dalton holds the NCAA record with 101 in 1995, while UA also had national leaders in Amy Chellevold (88 in 1994), Dalton (the 101 and also 84 in 1996), Alison McCutcheon (86 in 1997 and 97 in 1998) and Lauren Bauer (81 in 2001).
Leading the Pack: Stacie Chambers' 28 home runs are the fifth-most in Division I history, tying her with former Wildcat Jenny Dalton's 28 in 1995. 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' 86 RBI are No. 10 on the NCAA single-season chart, giving Arizona eight of the top 10 marks. Actually, she displaced Toni Mascarenas' 84 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 43 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.
Yard Yak...Arizona has hit 11 grand slams -- five by Chambers, two by Lastrapes, one by Arredondo, one by Arriola, one by Banister and one by Koria... Several players had two-homer contests, 18 times in all -- Arredondo against Oregon and at Oregon State; Arriola against UTEP; Banister vs. Arizona State and against Washington; Chambers against Utah, North Dakota State, Creighton, New Mexico, Penn State, Notre Dame and Oregon State; Lastrapes against Saint Joseph's; and Leles against Minnesota, Saint Joseph's, New Mexico State, and twice against Oregon... The Cats led off an inning with a home run 20 times topped by none other than leadoff batter Lastrapes with seven quick yanks. The Cats also had 22 other solo shots... The Cats had 40 two-out bombs led with eight by Chambers... The Cats' biggest inning for jacks was the first, with 30 home runs in that frame, followed by 26 in the third inning... Home runs often meant one thing: victory. UA lost only eight games in which it homered, including a pair of one-run contests at Texas A&M when it three and two round-trippers in 6-5 and 5-4 losses... Arizona hit home runs in 45 games... The Cats hit 21 home runs to score their first runs in games, and won 19 times...
Lineup Card: This is the projected 1-through-9 for this weekend:
1. Brittany Lastrapes – LF
2. K’Lee Arredondo – SS
3. Jenae Leles – 3B
4. Stacie Chambers – C
5. Sam Banister – 1B
6. Lini Koria – DP
7. Victoria Kemp – 2B
8. Lauren Schutzler – CF
9. Karissa Buchanan – RF
Pick Your Poison: Arizona’s lineup may very well be one of the most feared in softball. The 1-through-5 hitters are hitting an average of .371 at the plate, with a combined 93 home runs, and that’s with Arredondo missing a good portion of the season. The bottom four are hitting .325, with 23 jacks.
Standout Performances: Three RBI in one game is a lot. Wildcats have done it individually 60 times this year. But, that's one level. Arizona has 32 4+ RBI games. Think that’s a lot? Stacie Chambers has had 5 5+ RBI games, slugger Jenae Leles has had two, and K’Lee Arredondo tallied her second and the most recent 5+ RBI game – a two-homer performance against Oregon State on the final day of the regular season.
Going Streaking: A host of Cats have three-game streaks: Schutzler, Chambers, Lastrapes, Koria, Arredondo, and Banister. Lauren Schutzler’s team-high 16-game hitting streak came to an end against Simon Fraser. It was the longest streak in two seasons for the Cats.
Double Trouble: Brittany Lastrapes has taken the doubles lead on the team. After nabbing her 18th of the season, she sits only one shy of K’Lee Arredondo’s mark from last season. Arredondo sits third on the single-season doubles list with 19, a mark that Lastrapes is on track to eclipse. In historical perspective, Arredondo needs just five more to crack the UA career top-10 for doubles with a year of eligibility remaining.
Simple Reasoning: In Arizona's 13 losses the opponents have scored 61 runs to 25 by the Cats. That will do it. In its victories the average score is Arizona 11, Opponents 3.
Friendly Confines: Over 6,500 people came through the Hillenbrand Stadium gates to watch the home opening weekend. On April 18 against Cal, a season-high 2,895 people passed through the Hillenbrand gates. The numbers are on track to break records for attendance in a single season. Right now, the Cats are averaging 2,424 per game, as opposed to 1,900 – last’s season’s total.
The Rankings: Arizona sat at seventh in both the NFCA/USA Today and the USA Softball/ESPN.com preseason rankings. ESPN.com’s Graham Hays picked Arizona at No. 9 in his preseason poll, and the Pac-10 coaches’ poll placed Arizona at No. 4 in the conference. Arizona has been ranked No. 1 in the country for at least part of the year every season since 1991. This week Arizona is ranked 6th in the NFCA poll and 7th in the USA Softball/ESPN.com poll.
Arizona Softball in Historical Perspective: Arizona began play in 1974 and sports an all-time record of 1,528-443-2. The Cats are 368-102-1 in Pac-10 play, which began in 1987. Since 1982 and NCAA Division I Championships play began, Arizona is 1,354-337-2. UA has appeared in 22 NCAA Championships, has won the Women’s College World Series eight times in 20 trips, and has secured 10 Pac-10 titles.
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 the last three seasons and since its opening, Hillenbrand Stadium has been able to call itself the national champion just as many times as the team has. Call (520) 621-CATS or log on to arizonaathletics.com for ticket information.
USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Candidate List: Junior Stacie Chambers was selected as one of 10 finalists for the National Player of the Year. Senior third baseman Jenae Leles, Chambers and sophomore outfielder Brittany Lastrapes were named to the exclusive 25-name list earlier in the season. Arizona is scheduled to face many of the highly-touted players.
Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award Watch: Jenae Leles was named one of 10 finalists for the national award.
Wildcat Signees: The Arizona coaching staff signed three high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during the November early signing period. Brigette DelPonte (C/INF, Sunrise Mountain High School, Peoria, Ariz.) Kenzie Fowler (P, Canyon del Oro High School, Tucson, Ariz.), Baillie Kirker (3B/1B, Crescenta Valley High School, Montrose, Calif.) and Rebecca Tikey (OF, Horizon High School, Scottsdale, Ariz.) are all committed to enroll at the UA next fall.