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Arizona Softball Opens Season at Kajikawa Classic
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 02/10/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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POTENTIAL STARTING LINEUP

                                                   Avg.*  Note

1.   Caitlin Lowe               CF   .510    Led off all 57 games for UA in 2005.

2.   Autumn Champion  LF    .331    .419 career batting average, entering 2006

3.   Kristie Fox                  SS    .356    Led nation with 64 RBI in 2005

4.   Chelsie Mesa             2B   (.500)  10 RBI in 14 fall at-bats

5.   Callista Balko             C     .205    18 of 23 RBI in 2005 came with two out

6.   Sam Banister              DP   (.308)  Two doubles and two sac bunts in 15 fall PA

7.   Jenae Leles                3B   (.300)  .533 OBP in five fall games

8.   Laine Roth                  1B   (.615)  Led all newcomers with .615 BA in fall games

9.   Adrienne Acton        RF    .175    Led team with 33 appearances as a sub in ?'05

PITCHING

                                        W-L*  ERA*   Note        

      Alicia Hollowell      31-9  0.88    Perfect in UA’s only Kajikawa game in ?'05

      Leslie Wolfe            6-2    1.64    0 ER in 9.0 IP in the postseason

      Taryne Mowatt        8-1    1.80    Only career loss came to ?'05 champ Michigan

*Stats from 2005

(Fall batting average)

 

THIS WEEK: No. 5 Arizona heads up Interstate-10 to Tempe, where it will open the 2006 season against Cal State Northridge in the Kajikawa Classic.  UA’s match-up with the Matadors will be the first of six scheduled games this weekend, including a Saturday matinee with 2005 WCWS foe No. 4 Texas.

 

The schedule for this week’s games has changed since the publication of the media guide and other materials.  Please refer to ArizonaAthletics.com or the .pdf version of this week’s notes for an updated schedule.

 

NOTING THE OPPONENTS:

 

FRIDAY, FEB. 10 AT ASU’S FARRINGTON STADIUM

CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE ?- The Matadors open their 2006 campaign against New Mexico at 11:30 a.m. (MST) at the Kajikawa Classic, No. 5 Arizona at 4:30 p.m. (MST).  The Matadors, who finished 16-23 in 2005, have been picked to finish sixth in the Big West.  CSUN returns first baseman/catcher Janine Grund and catcher/outfielder Jan Moshier who earned All-Big West honors in 2005.  Additionally, former Arizona All-American catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest is on the Matador staff as a volunteer assistant.

 

NORTHWESTERN ?- For the first time in program history, Northwestern opens its season ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll and in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25, at No. 16 and No. 15, respectively.  In senior pitcher Courtney Foster and junior first baseman Garland Cooper, Northwestern returns two All-Americans from 2005.  Both Foster, who is a Tucson native, and Cooper are also listed on the National Collegiate Player-of-the-Year Watch List.  The Wildcats open their season against Oregon State at 11:30 a.m. (MST), before taking on UA at 7 p.m. (MST).

 

SATURDAY, FEB. 11 AT THE TEMPE SPORTS COMPLEX

TEXAS ?- Last year, UT did what only six other squads accomplished: beat Arizona.  This year, the fourth-ranked Longhorns are one of just four squads ranked ahead of Arizona in the preseason polls.  UT returns three-time All-American pitcher Cat Osterman.  A gold medalist in Athens, Osterman captured the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award in 2003 and 2005.  Outside of Osterman, the Longhorns return seven starting position players with WCWS experience.  First pitch for the Wildcats and Longhorns is scheduled for 2 p.m. (MST) on Saturday

 

TEXAS A&M ?-  Although Texas finished at the WCWS and is currently ranked fourth, Texas A&M is the reigning Big 12 champs and has been picked to do it again.  The No. 6/9 Aggies return a pair of sophomore All-Americans; Megan Gibson and Amanda Scarborough, who have also been named to the National Collegiate Player-of-the-Year Watch List.  As a freshman, Gibson held the team and Big 12 Conference lead in slugging percentage (.823), on base percentage (.503), home runs (18) and walks (29). She was in the top-10 in the nation for homeruns, RBI per game and slugging percentage.  Scarborough, returns to the circle as the reigning Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year. During league play she recorded the best batting average (.410) and the most conference wins (11).  The Wildcats and Aggies game will start at 4:30 p.m. (MST) on Saturday.

 

SUNDAY, FEB. 12 AT THE TEMPE SPORTS COMPLEX

NEW MEXICO?- Back in October, the Lobos came to Tucson for UA’s fall tourney.  Arizona was not a hospitable host, defeating New Mexico, 8-0.  Arizona sophomore Taryne Mowatt tossed six shutout innings, surrendering just two hits in the UA victory.  Arizona and New Mexico are slated to begin the rematch at 9 a.m. (MST) on Sunday.

 

CAL STATE FULLERTON ?- Although the Titans are not ranked in the Top 25, they stand at No. 26 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll.  Fullerton, which has reached the NCAA Tournament in six out of the last seven years, returns four All-Big West players and has been picked to win its conference this year.  Arizona and Fullerton are scheduled to start their Kajikawa finales at 11:30 a.m. (MST) on Sunday.

 

WILDCATS IN THE KAJIKAWA: Arizona was scheduled to play five games in the Kajikawa last year, but played only Tennessee-Chattanooga, due to rain throughout the weekend.  In UA’s only game, the Wildcats routed the Mocs, 8-0, in Alicia Hollowell’s first perfect game of the season.

 

ARIZONA HEAD COACH MIKE CANDREA enters his 21st season at Arizona and carries a career 1,027-203 (.835) record in 20 years in the dugout.  At the time of this release, Candrea’s career winning percentage is the best in NCAA history.  Additionally, he is one of just five coaches to reach the 1,000 Division I victories, and was the fastest to do so (19 years of on-field coaching).  In 2004, Candrea took a year off to coach the USA Olympic softball team to a 9-0 record and a gold medal in Athens.  Candrea was also 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.  Candrea is also an eight-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year and a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame.  He has led Arizona to six national championships and nine Pac-10 titles.

 

USA SOFTBALL NATIONAL COLLEGIATE PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR WATCH LIST:  Four Arizona players were named to the USA Softball POY pre-season watch list.  Alicia Hollowell, Caitlin Lowe, Kristie Fox and Autumn Champion are the quartet of Wildcats featured on the 50-name list, which includes players representing 28 schools from 10 conferences.

 

AND THEN THERE WERE EIGHT: Okay, here’s the bad news: Arizona returns just eight of its 17 players from 2005.  The good news is that half of the Wildcat returnees are All-Americans (Alicia Hollowell, Caitlin Lowe, Kristie Fox and Autumn Champion) and the other half had significant contributions in 2005, as well.

 

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM!: In addition to freshman infielders Laine Roth, Jenae Leles and Sam Banister, and as 2005 NJCAA Player of the Year Chelsie Mesa, UA delved into the rest of the athletic department for additional players.

 

With only 12 rostered players and three weeks to Opening Day, UA brought in senior outfielder Kelly Nelson, freshman outfielder Jill Malina and sophomore infielder Danielle Rodriguez.  Nelson is a four-year letterwinner with UA’s soccer team, Malina was originally slated to be a softball manager, and Rodriguez made the squad in an open tryout.  For more information regarding the three late additions, log on to ArizonaAthletics.com to see their bios.

 

A FAMILIAR CIRCLE: Despite the roster’s overhaul since falling, 1-0, to Texas on June 5 to conclude 2005, Arizona has one area that nothing will change: the pitching circle.  The Wildcats return all three pitchers from last year’s staff that led the Pac-10 in numerous pitching categories, including ERA.

 

STILL USING A SHARPIE: With only five position players returning, one may think that Coach Candrea has a tough time filling out his lineup card.  Although that may or may not be true, he doesn’t have to worry too much about the top three spots.  In every one of UA’s 57 games in 2005, the top three spots of the Wildcat batting order read:

 

1.       Caitlin Lowe

2.       Autumn Champion

3.       Kristie Fox

 

WATCHING VERY CLOSELY: Last year’s national RBI leader, Kristie Fox, maintained uncanny discipline at the plate in 2005.  Fox led UA with 27 base on balls, while striking out only 15 times in 180 at-bats.  Those numbers give her 1.8 walks to strikeout, and she struck out in just eight percent of her at-bats.  Not bad, in comparison to the rest of UA’s squad, which had 0.55 walks for every strikeout and went down 21 percent of the time with a K in the scorecard.

 

START IT UP RIGHT: Arizona has traditionally had success on Opening Day, as well as the weeks after.  Last season, UA won 20 games before dropping a 1-0 extra-inning affair to Texas.  In 2004, UA started its season 34-0, prior to losing, 7-6, to ninth-ranked Washington.  In 2003, the current seniors’ freshman year, UA won the first nine games of the year, before losing a one-run game to Texas.

 

AIMING AT HISTORY:  Alicia Hollowell already holds a plethora of Arizona records and is ready to cement her name a bit deeper into the record books.  Entering her senior season, Hollowell is 286.0 innings pitched away from tying Jennie Finch’s record for innings pitched in a career.  In terms of victories, Hollowell currently stands third with 112 wins, while Finch (119) and Nancy Evans (124) are the only former Wildcats left in her way.  Hollowell already holds the record for strikeouts in a career at UA.

 

THE OLD RED, WHITE & BLUE: Caitlin Lowe and Alicia Hollowell return to Arizona after a summer with the USA National Team.  With Coach Candrea at the helm, Lowe started 11 of 12 games and hit a combined .357, while scoring six runs and going 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts, during several tournaments.  Hollowell did not give up an earned run in 8.2 innings of work, during which time she struck out 12 batters.

 

TERRIFYING WITH TWO OUT: Of Callista Balko’s 23 RBI during her freshman campaign, 15 of her ribbies came with two out. 

 

THROWN INTO THE HOT CORNER: This Friday, Jenae Leles could be the first freshman since Jackie Coburn (2002) and Toni Mascarenas (1998) to start regularly at third base.  Should Leles get moved to another position, fellow frosh Sam Banister waits in the wings to share the left side of the infield with Kristie Fox.

 

A LITTLE HELP HERE?: In each of the last three years, Alicia Hollowell has eaten up over 70 percent of UA’s innings pitched.  She should get some help from returning hurlers Leslie Wolfe and Taryne Mowatt.  Wolfe started six of the final 16 games for UA in 2005, after delivering the first pitch in only three of the first 41 contests.  Additionally, a healthy and mature Mowatt should also help out, after winning eight games last season.

 

NOT AFRAID OF A CHALLENGE: As always, Arizona will play one of the most challenging schedules in the nation.  Of UA’s 50 scheduled regular season games, 17 are against teams ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN.com/USA Today Poll.  In addition, another 11 games are against teams ranked 11-25.

 

LAST SEASON RECAP

 

2005 ARIZONA SOFTBALL REVIEW: The University of Arizona softball team made its 17th trip to the Women’s College World Series in the last 18 years, while sharing the Pac-10 title with three other teams, during its 2005 season.  The shared conference championship makes four titles in the last five years for the Wildcats.  Arizona was in the top four throughout the season in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and NFCA/USA Today polls.

 

ARIZONA ALL-AMERICANS: Three Arizona players earned All-America honors, including two first-team selections.  Player of the Year finalist Caitlin Lowe batted .510, while slugging .638 as UA’s leadoff hitter.  Prior to the WCWS, Lowe was in line to take home the nation’s batting title, which would have been the second consecutive year a UA outfielder did so.  Lowe’s classmate Kristie Fox’s 64 RBI and .356 batting average got the San Diego, Calif., native a first team at-large All-America selection.  Fox led the nation in RBI throughout the year, and finished that way, although opponents elected not to pitch to her.  Fox had 63 RBI in her first 46 games, before having just one in the final 11 contests.  In those final 11 games, Fox was walked 13 times.  With Lowe on base all the time, Fox made opponents pay, capitalizing with a .419 average with runners on.  Finally, Alicia Hollowell made her third straight appearance on the All-America team, this time as a second team selection.  Hollowell led the Wildcats with her 31-9 record and 0.88 ERA.  In 54 postseason innings pitched, Hollowell surrendered just one earned run, good for a 0.13 ERA.  Arizona’s strikeout queen had 446 punchouts in her third campaign, while limiting opponents to a .148 batting average.

 

ALL-PACIFIC-REGION HONORS: Arizona softball players Caitlin Lowe, Alicia Hollowell, Kristie Fox and Autumn Champion earned 2005 Pacific All-Region honors.  Hollowell is a three-time first-team pick, outfielder Caitlin Lowe is a two-time selection,  shortstop Fox earned her first honor and outfielder Champion, a second-team pick this year, earned her third All-Pacific honor.

 

ALL-PAC-10 TEAM: The All-Pac-10 team had a big resemblance to that of the All-Pacific-Region team, when it came to UA players on the squad.  Caitlin Lowe, Alicia Hollowell, and Kristie Fox once again earned first team honors, while Autumn Champion was honored on the second team

 

PACIFIC-10 ALL-ACADEMIC TEAM: Jennifer Martinez and Autumn Champion were named to the Pacific-10 All-Academic Team, along with 18 other Pac-10 softball players.  Martinez, a physical education major, earned first team honors for her 3.61 GPA.  Champion, a pre-education major, drew second team honors for her 3.25 GPA.  

 

THE CONFERENCE OF CHAMPIONS: The Pac-10 had an unprecedented four teams tie for the conference title, while fifth place UCLA played for its third consecutive national championship in the WCWS championship series.  All eight teams advanced to postseason play, while five went on to play in a super regional.

 

2005 Pac-10 STANDINGS

Arizona*^#            13-8        45-12

California*^#        13-8        52-15

Oregon State*^    13-8        43-16

Stanford*^            13-8        43-16

UCLA^# 11-10     40-20

Washington^         10-11     35-22

Oregon^                7-14        36-25

Arizona State^     4-17        30-26

* = Co-Pac-10 Champions

^ = NCAA Regional Participant

 

ARIZONA IN NCAA PLAY: The Cats were 6-2 in NCAA play last year, with the two losses being 1-0 affairs on unearned runs.  UA bounced back from its early 2004 exit by making its 17th WCWS appearance in the last 18 years.  The Wildcats are 103-30 (.774) all time in postseason games, with a 46-22 (.676) clip in WCWS contests. 

 

AT THE WCWS: Arizona had a tough time hitting the ball in Oklahoma City last year, as the Wildcats combined for a .106 team batting average in three games.  Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they had a tough time fielding the ball, as well.  After boasting a .977 team fielding percentage in their first 54 games, the Wildcats collapsed with a .957 fielding percentage in WCWS games, allowing three unearned runs to score.  The good news for Arizona in Oklahoma City was its pitching.  The Wildcat staff, which was Alicia Hollowell with the exception of 1.1 innings, allowed one earned run in 30.0 innings pitched.

 

ARIZONA SOFTBALL ATTENDANCE: Once again Arizona’s loyal fans showed up in bunches during the 2005 season.  In 24 home dates, 32,811 bodies pushed through the turnstiles, averaging 1,367 per date.  Arizona drew over 1,000 fans in 19 of its two-dozen home dates.

 

 

 

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