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Exhibition Doubleheader Opens Softball Action
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 01/28/2005
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Arizona's softball team returns to action under heralded coach Mike Candrea, opening the 2005 season with an exhibition doubleheader at 12 noon Saturday against Phoenix College.

The Cats return all starters but catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest and designated player/first baseman Wendy Allen and enter the year ranked No. 3 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll and No. 2 in the newer ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings. 

Arizona has been ranked steadily in the NFCA poll since 1988 and in the USA Softball poll since its inception three years ago. In the preseason polls this year, fellow Pac-10 member California was picked No. 1 in each, with defending NCAA champion UCLA jockeying with UA for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots (see below).

The Wildcats come off a 55-6 season in 2004, a sparkling record for a disappointing campaign that saw the club fall in NCAA Regional play for the first time in 17 years, after 16 consecutive trips to the Women's College World Series.

UA brings back two-time first-team All-American pitcher Alicia Hollowell, a junior, and three All-American outfielders in two-time first-teamer Autumn Champion (a junior), sophomore Caitlin Lowe and junior Courtney Fossatti, who missed the 2004 season with an ankle injury after earning second-team All-America honors in 2003.

Hollowell was Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year in 2004 while Lowe earned Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year honors. They and Champion earned first-team all-league citation along with Allen.

Other veterans back include senior third baseman Jackie Coburn, junior second baseman Shelly Shultz, sophomore shortstop Kristi Fox, senior first baseman Crystal Farley, senior utility outfielder Allyson Von Liechtenstein, senior pinch-hitter/outfielder Candace Abrams and junior pitcher Leslie Wolfe. Farley moves to first after three years in the outfield. UA also brings back reserves in soph catcher Cortney Nix, and infielders Betsy Wilson (soph) and Jennifer Martinez (senior).

One challenge for Candrea will be replacing Vandergeest, the latest in a string of outstanding slugging catchers for the Cats. True freshman Callisto Balko is expected to open the year at the spot. Two other freshman newcomers are expected to contend for roles -- pitcher Taryne Mowatt and speedy Adrienne Acton.

Candrea is back on the field after a one-year hiatus when he led the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal in the Olympiad at Athens, Greece, last summer. Entering his 20th year at UA's mentor, Candrea should win his 1,000th game sometime this season. He brings a record of 982-191, including a 95-26 mark in NCAA play. He'll be assisted by Larry Ray and Nancy Evans.

Candrea won the Olympic Shield Award, one of the United States Olympic Committee's highest honors, earlier this month in ceremonies at Chula Vista, Calif., where the Team USA training center is situated.

Arizona opens the regular season as host for the Pepsi Arizona Softball Classic Friday through Sunday, Feb. 2-4, with a game at 4 p.m. Friday against Tulsa.

****************************

USA Today/NFCA Preseason Top 5

Rank, team

1st

2004 Record

Points

1. California

(14)

53-13

729

2. UCLA

(12)

55-6

705

3. Arizona

(4)

47-9

698

4. Oklahoma

 

45-22-1

617

5. LSU

 

57-12

541

 
 

 ESPN/USA Softball Preseason Top 5

Rank

Team

2004 Record

Points

1.

California (10)

 53-13

487

2.

Arizona (8)

55-6

481

3.

UCLA (2)

47-9 

457

4.

Oklahoma

 45-22-1

411

5.

Stanford

 49-19

357

 

 

 

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