THIS WEEK: Arizona begins its defense of its 2006 national championship in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., on Friday, Feb. 9. The Cats play Ohio State at 5:30 p.m. and Nevada at 7:30 p.m.
ON THE AIR: Fans in Tucson who are unable to travel up to Tempe can tune in to KCUB 1290 AM The Source for the Wildcats’ two games on Friday, Feb. 9. Paul Johnson, the voice of the Arizona women’s basketball team, will call the action. Free Live Stats, powered by Tucson Electric Power, will not be available for Friday's games, but should available for the remainder of the weekend. Livestats will be provided for all 30 home games and many road games.
NOTING THE OPPONENTS:
FRIDAY, FEB. 9 ?- AT THE TEMPE SPORTS COMPLEX
OHIO STATE: UA will open the season against Ohio State. OSU returns eight position starters and its entire pitching staff from the 2006 squad that saw its season come to a close at the Tucson Regional. Head coach Linda Kalafatis enters her 11th season and can pencil four-year starting pitcher Jamee Juarez in as her first pitching option.
Last year, UA defeated the Buckeyes 5-1 in the Palm Springs Classic on Feb. 25 and by a 6-3 margin in the second round of the Tucson Regional on May 19. A number of Wildcats had success at the plate against OSU in 2006, including Jenae Leles (.500, 3-6), Sam Banister (.500, 2-4, HR, 3 RBI) and Caitlin Lowe (.429, 3-7, RBI, 2-2 SB).
NEVADA: The Pack, which were picked to finish third in the WAC, feature junior pitcher Jordan McPherson. The Simi Valley, Calif., native was selected as an at-large selection on the pre-season All-WAC team. Arizona volunteer assistant coach Dave Feinberg has earned two degrees from Nevada and has had two stints as an assistant coach for the Wolfpack baseball team.
SATURDAY, FEB. 10 ?- AT ASU’s FARRINGTON STADIUM
FLORIDA: This is the first meeting between Arizona and UF since Wildcat assistant coach Larry Ray left the program he guided through its inaugural four seasons. In Ray’s time with the Gators from 1996-2000, he led them to a 169-106 (.615) record. Incidentally, UF’s winning percentage in the six years since his departure has declined. In 1998, Ray led Florida to a 47-22 season, claiming the SEC regular-season title and was named SEC Coach of the Year for his efforts. For more information on Ray and his time with Florida, please refer to page 29 of Arizona’s 2007 media guide.
This year’s UF squad features sophomore right fielder Kim Waleszonia, who hit .309 in 68 games last year. The Gators return a pitching duo of Stacey Nelson and Stacey Stevens, who drew 55 of the team’s 68 decisions and earned 34 of the 43 victories.
NORTHWESTERN: Fourth-ranked Northwestern is coming off its best season in program history and one of the greatest Cinderella stories since Arizona’s 1991 national championship run. NU returns six starters, including four All-Big Ten selections and three All-Americans. NU head coach Kate Drohan enters her sixth year and has three players ?- senior pitcher Eileen Canney, senior first baseman Garland Cooper and sophomore infielder Tammy Williams ?- named to the USA Softball Player of the Year “Watch List.”
Arizona faced the purple-clad Wildcats three times in 2006, and won by scores of 8-0 (Feb. 10, Kajikawa Classic), 8-0 (June 5, WCWS) and 5-0 (June 6, WCWS). While Alicia Hollowell threw complete games in all three contests, several returning UA players experienced considerable success at the plate. Taryne Mowatt batted .714 (5-for-7) with a home run and three RBI in the two WCWS games, while four other returning Wildcat hitters batted .300 or better in the games against NU.
SUNDAY, FEB. 11 ?- AT THE TEMPE SPORTS COMPLEX
WISCONSIN: The Badgers are coming off a season in which they finished 10th in the Big Ten with an overall record of 22-22. UW returns senior pitcher Eden Brock, who boasts 50 career victories and is coming off an 18-13 season with a 3.37 ERA.
TEXAS A&M: The Aggies and Wildcats faced off three times in 2006, including once in the Kajikawa Classic. Behind Alicia Hollowell’s second no-hitter of the season and seven runs in the first inning, UA run-ruled A&M 8-0 in five innings. The Wildcats enjoyed another emphatic victory over the Aggies at the Palm Springs Classic on Feb. 24, as UA defeated the Big 12 favorite 12-0 in a Hollowell one-hitter. In the third and final meeting of the season, A&M upset Arizona with a 1-0 victory at the Judi Garman Classic. The loss sent Arizona into a spiral during which it would win just 10 of its next 18 games.
The Aggies lose only one starter from last year’s squad that finished fourth in the Big 12. They will be led by 2005 first-team All-American junior pitcher/first baseman Amanda Scarborough.
WILDCATS IN THE KAJIKAWA: Arizona dominated its competition in the 2006 Kajikawa Classic, as it outscored the opposition by a margin of 36-1. Alicia Hollowell tossed a pair of no-hitters, and the Wildcats registered victories over No. 15 Northwestern, No. 4 Texas and No. 6 Texas A&M.
ARIZONA HEAD COACH MIKE CANDREA ?- is in his 22nd season at the helm of the Arizona softball program. He boasts a 1,081-214 (.835) record in 21 seasons in the dugout. Candrea has earned 17 coach of the year honors, including nine Pac-10 Coach of the Year citations. 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 in 2004. 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 nine-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year and a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He has led Arizona to seven national championships and nine Pac-10 titles.
DEFENDING THE TITLE: Arizona has experienced exceptional success in years following a national title. The Wildcats have appeared in the national title game after every one of their national championships and average 62-6 record in those six campaigns.
USA SOFTBALL NATIONAL COLLEGIATE PLAYER OF THE YEAR “WATCH LIST”: Arizona senior shortstop Kristie Fox, senior center fielder Caitlin Lowe, junior catcher Callista Balko and junior pitcher Taryne Mowatt were named to the exclusive 50-name preseason list. UA led all schools with four players on the list that included 33 teams and 11 conferences. Lowe was a finalist for the award in 2005, while Alicia Hollowell was a finalist last year.
STARTING THE YEAR: Arizona has traditionally had success on Opening Day, as well as the weeks after. Last year, UA won its first 15 contests before dropping a 1-0, extra-inning contest to Texas. Incidentally the Wildcats won their first 20 games of 2005 before dropping another 1-0, extra-inning affair to the Longhorns. In 2003 and 2004, Arizona won its first nine and 34 games, respectively.
LIKE CLOCKWORK: Arizona has been ranked No. 1 in the country for at least part of the year every season since 1991.
NOTHING COMES EASILY: Arizona always plays a difficult schedule and this year will be no different. In Pac-10 play, UA is scheduled to play 16 games against teams ranked in the top 10 of the USA Today/NFCA poll and an additional 11 contests against other squads ranked in the Top 25. In addition to having six Pac-10 opponents ranked 12th or better, UA has non-conference match-ups with No. 4 Northwestern, four games against No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 16 Oklahoma, a three-game series versus No. 18 Baylor .
REPRESENTING THE OTHER RED, WHITE AND BLUE: This past off-season Caitlin Lowe completed her second summer with the U.S. Women’s National Team. Lowe started all 17 games of the ISF World Championships and the II World Cup of Softball for Team USA. She batted .393 (22-for-56) in the two tournaments, stole a team-high nine bases in as many attempts and scored 23 runs to help lead the U.S. to a pair of tournament victories. Additionally, Callista Balko and Kristie Fox helped lead the U.S. to a gold medal in the World University games in Taiwan this past July.
WELCOMING THE NEWCOMERS: Arizona brings in seven newcomers, including six freshmen to its 18-player squad. Freshmen third baseman/pitcher Sarah Akamine, utility player K'Lee Arredondo and catcher/third baseman Stacie Chambers could make an immediate impact on the starting lineup. Additional frosh third baseman/catcher Lauren Erb, outfielder Lisa Odom and junior outfielder Cyndi Duran could give UA some depth off the bench.
SWITCH IT UP: K'Lee Arredondo is slated to be the first switch hitter during Mike Candrea’s 22-year tenure. The frosh from Tempe, Ariz., should succeed Autumn Champion as UA’s two-hole hitter. Arredondo hit three home runs in 13 at-bats during Arizona’s fall tournament and batted .542 with 14 runs scored in eight games with the U.S. Junior Women’s Pan American Qualifier team in Puerto Rico.
HITTING STREAKS: While they may appear small on paper, any carry over hitting streak that dates back to the WCWS is significant. Four returning Wildcats (Caitlin Lowe, 4 games; Adrienne Acton, 3; Callista Balko, 3; and Taryne Mowatt, 3) open the season hitting streaks of three games or larger. Laine Roth will begin the 2007 campaign with a modest one-game carry over streak.
FOUR TIMES THE FUN: Before the year is over, Caitlin Lowe will cement her name in both the NCAA and Arizona record books in several offensive categories such as batting average, hits, runs scored and stolen bases. She also has the chance to become just the fifth player in Arizona program’s storied history to be a four-time NFCA All-American. Amy Chellevold, Leah Braatz, Lauren Bauer and Alicia Hollowell are the only Wildcats to be cited four times. Additionally, Lowe could join Braatz as the only player in that distinguished group to earn each of those citations as a first-teamer.
FOX IN THE CLUTCH: Kristie Fox has built a reputation as one of the great clutch hitters in college softball. In 2006, she batted .430 with runners in scoring position and set a career high with 66 RBI, but her career numbers are even more telling. The shortstop is a career .385 (84-for-218) hitter with runners in scoring position and hits .335 (112-for-334) in non-RISP situations.
FOX TO BE HONORED BY SAN DIEGO HALL OF CHAMPIONS: On Feb. 13 Kristie Fox will be honored as one of 10 Stars of the Year by the San Diego Hall of Champions. The San Diego Calif., native will be joined by NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, UA alum and San Diego Padres pitcher Trevor Hoffman, eight-time Pro Bowl selection John Lynch, two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and six others. For more information, log on to www.sdhoc.com.
REPLACING THE ACE: Taryne Mowatt’s task of replacing four-time All-American Alicia Hollowell as Arizona’s first pitching option. While the job will not be easy, Moawtt is not the first Arizona pitcher asked to replace a legend. Every year since 1991, UA has had at least one pitcher named to the All-America team. Of the 17 citations ?- UA had two pitchers named to the 1992 team ?- seven different players have represented the Wildcats over that timeframe (Debby Day, Susie Parra, Carrie Dolan, Nancy Evans, Becky Lemke, Jennie Finch and Alicia Hollowell). Teresa Cherry was tabbed an All-American in 1988 as UA’s first pitcher to be so honored.
2006 REVIEW: While national championships are the currency by which history measures on-field success, the results show that Arizona continued its tradition of superb play in all aspects of the game in 2006. Along with Tennessee, UA was the only team to finish in the top 10 nationally in the following team categories: ERA, batting average and fielding percentage.
The Wildcats opened the year on a tear, winning 24 of their first 25 games. UA dominated opponents over that span, winning games by an average of six runs a game. However, on March 16 Arizona entered a slide in which it went 10-8 over its next 18 contests. Prior to UA’s April 30 doubleheader at Washington, the Wildcats found themselves in the bottom half of the Pac-10 standings.
In the first game of the doubleheader, Alicia Hollowell ruined the Huskies’ Senior Day by tossing a no-hitter, leading to a 2-0 UA victory. The win catalyzed a 14-game winning streak that elevated Arizona to a second-place finish in the Pac-10 and within one game of reaching the Women’s College World Series.
After defeating LSU in the Tucson Super Regional to reach the WCWS, UA met Pac-10 foe Oregon State for an opening round date in Oklahoma City. After defeating the Beavers in extra-innings, UA engaged in a game for the ages against Texas. A pair of four-time All-Americans, Hollowell and Cat Osterman in the circle, did not disappoint, as they allowed a total of five hits between them. Arizona broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Callista Balko singled home Caitlin Lowe for what proved to be the game-winning run in a 2-0 Wildcat victory.
Two days later, after a 1-0 loss to Tennessee, Arizona responded emphatically with a 6-0 victory over the Lady Vols that sent the Wildcats to the championship series against Northwestern.
UA opened exploded with an 8-0 win in Game 1, led by a one-hit performance by Hollowell. The story of the game, and the series for that matter, was the Wildcats’ speed on the base paths. UA’s slappers Caitlin Lowe, Autumn Champion and Adrienne Acton combined for three infield hits, four runs and forced three NU infield errors.
In Game 2, Arizona could smell the national championship, putting 12 hits on the board that led to an eventual 5-0 victory.
Finally, after all the ups and downs the team endured, the Wildcats tasted the sweetest of victories and in doing so, they brought the national championship trophy home to Tucson.
USA SOFTBALL NATIONAL COLLEGIATE PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR FINALISTS: Alicia Hollowell was chosen as one of the three finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year. Caitlin Lowe had been included on the list of 10 finalists, and was one of just three non-pitchers to be so honored. Finally, Kristie Fox and Autumn Champion were named to the 50-name pre-season watch list.
ALL-WCWS: Four Arizona players were named to the All-WCWS Team, including Alicia Hollowell’s Most Outstanding Player performance. Taryne Mowatt led the Wildcats with a .389 (7-for-18) average in Oklahoma City and had three of UA’s five extra-base hits. Autumn Champion drove home a 2006 WCWS high and near-record seven runs in six games to go along with her .381 (8-for-21) clip. Caitlin Lowe matched the fellow Foothill High alum Champion by reaching base via hit in eight of 21 at-bats, while stealing four bases in as many attempts and scoring a WCWS record eight runs. Hollowell, meanwhile, threw every pitch of UA’s 43.0 innings in the field, striking out a WCWS record 64 batters and hurling a record six complete games. In six games Hollowell registered four shutouts and allowed only two earned runs, good for a 0.33 ERA at softball’s biggest stage.
ALL-AMERICANS: Arizona had three players named to the NFCA All-America team and one named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America team. Caitlin Lowe earned her third first-team All-America honor in as many years, while fellow Kristie Fox got a first-team nod for the second consecutive year. Alicia Hollowell became the first pitcher in Arizona history to be cited as an All-American for all four years, and is just the fourth Wildcat to do so (Amy Chellevold, Leah Braatz and Lauren Bauer). Autumn Champion, who was alarmingly left off the NFCA All-America squad, garnered second-team Academic All-America honors.
ALL-PAC-10 TEAM: Kristie Fox, Caitlin Lowe, Alicia Hollowell and Autumn Champion were all named to the All-Pac-10 Team. Fox, Lowe and Hollowell earned first-team nods, while Champion garnered second-team honors. Both Lowe and Hollowell have been named to the first team every year since they arrived, while Fox is a first-teamer for the second time, and Champion has a pair of first and second team citations. Taryne Mowatt and Callista Balko received honorable mentions.
ARIZONA SOFTBALL ATTENDANCE: Once again, Arizona’s loyal fans showed up in bunches during the 2006 season. In 26 home dates, 33,594 bodies pushed through turnstiles, averaging 1,292 fans per date. UA drew over 1,000 fans in 19 of its 26 home dates and has a running total of 419,617 fans since Hillenbrand Stadium’s opening in 1993. Arizona will open its home slate with a season-long 15-game homestand beginning on Feb. 16 against Temple in the Worth Wildcat Tournament. Call (520) 621-CATS or log on to arizonaathletics.com for ticket information.
WILDCAT SIGNEES: Arizona has locked up five high school seniors who are expected to enroll in the fall of 2007. Lauren Schutzler, an outfielder from Monterey, Calif.; Brittany Lastrapes, an outfielder from Laguna Hills, Calif.; Lindsey Sisk, a pitcher and outfielder from Murietta, Calif.; Tawny Horton, an outfielder from Gilbert, Ariz.; and Victoria Kemp, a second baseman from Saugus, Calif., comprise the class. Schutzler is the sister of Tennessee All-American Lindsay Schutzler, and Lastrapes’ older sister Dominique is an All-American at Washington. Both Sisk and Lastrapes competed on the U.S. Junior Women’s Team that captured the Junior Women’s Pan Am Championship in Puerto Rico in November 2006.