April 1, 2009
Conference Co-Leaders Hit the Road
Up Next: The No. 9 Arizona Wildcats (31-7, 3-0 Pac-10), winners of 13 of their last 15 games, have cracked the top 10 in the NFCA rankings for the first time since the opening week. The Cats have a tough road ahead, though, as they hit the road to face two top ten teams in three days: Washington on Friday, and UCLA on Saturday and Sunday.
Friday, April 3 at Washington, 1 p.m.
(Husky Softball Stadium, Seattle)
Saturday, April 4 at UCLA, 3 p.m. (Easton Stadium, Los Angeles)
Sunday, March 29 at UCLA, 12 p.m.
Noting the Huskies: No. 3 Washington (28-5, 1-2 Pac-10) is led by Langley, British Columbia native Danielle Lawrie (19-3), who sat out the 2008 season to pitch for the Canadian national team. The junior has an outstanding 0.42 ERA to go along with 242 strikeouts, good for second in the nation. She has only allowed two home runs in 151.2 innings pitched. The Huskies seem to live and die on the arm of their ace, though, as they were unable to put a run on the board in two consecutive losses to Stanford. Senior Ashley Charters is the biggest offensive threat, hitting .444 at the plate with stolen 23 bases.
Noting the Bruins: No. 7 UCLA (26-6, 1-2 Pac-10) is led by junior Kaila Shull, who touts a .406 average at the dish. Her team-high 44 RBI are fourth in the conference and her .781 slugging percentage is also tops on the squad. Sophomore Katie Schroeder has swiped 15 bags on the season and holds a .387 batting average, while senior Amanda Kamekona is also hitting above .350. In the circle, sophomore Donna Kerr (15-5) has seen a team-high 124.1 innings, compiling a 2.65 ERA. Sophomore Whitney Baker (8-1) and junior Megan Langenfeld (3-0) have seen limited action, and one of the two will most likely face the Wildcats over the weekend.
Last Week: Arizona hosted the Oregon schools to open Pac-10 play, putting up a total of 30 runs in the three games. On Friday against Oregon State, Arizona scored a run in all but one inning, but also gave up nine runs for the second time this season in a 12-9 victory. In her first game since March 7, K'Lee Arredondo had four RBI, including a three-run home run. Sam Banister tallied a blast, but Stacie Chambers one-upped them both with two long balls. Jennifer Martinez picked up the win in relief.
On Saturday, Arizona opened the flood gates early against Oregon as they scored six unearned two-out runs in the second inning, highlighted by a Jenae Leles three-run homer. UA tacked on five more in the fourth, three of them off the bat of Victoria Kemp's three-run shot. Leles also added another homer in the inning. But once again, the Cats struggled to close the game in the circle, giving up three Oregon runs in the seventh. Lindsey Sisk (11-2) was in line for the complete game, but gave up a two-run shot and was lifted for Jennifer Martinez, who also gave up a run. Arizona ended up with an 11-3 run-rule victory.
On Sunday, Arizona scored another come-from-behind victory. Up 4-3 heading into the seventh inning, pitcher Jennifer Martinez gave up a base hit and issued a one-out walk. After forcing the next batter into a lineout, Neena Bryant smashed a two-out, three-run homer to give the Ducks a 6-4 lead. But UA fought back in their half. After a leadoff walk to Brittany Lastrapes, K'Lee Arredondo smashed a game-tying blast over the batter's eye. Moments later, after a pitching change, Jenae Leles took Brittany Rumfelt's first pitch to right centerfield, giving UA a 7-6 walk-off victory. After falling behind in the seventh, Arizona's offense bailed out pitcher Martinez who upped her record to 7-1 on the season.
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 UA partner IMG Sports and 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 1,162-235-2 (.831) record in 21 seasons 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.
Welcome Back: After missing 11 straight games because of a hamstring injury, junior K'Lee Arredondo made her presence felt this past weekend. The Tempe, Ariz. native hit nine RBI through three games, with three home runs including the game-tying two-run shot against Oregon. She now carries a team-high eight-game hitting streak.
1. Brittany Lastrapes - LF
2. K'Lee Arredondo - SS
3. Jenae Leles - 3B
4. Stacie Chambers - C
5. Sam Banister - RF
6. Lini Koria - DP
7. Laine Roth - 1B
8. Victoria Kemp - 2B
9. Lauren Schutzler - CF
Pick Your Poison: Arizona's lineup may very well be one of the most feared in softball. The 1-through-4 hitters are hitting an average of .414 at the plate, with a combined 53 home runs, and that's with Arredondo having only played 18 games. The bottom five are hitting .330, with 29 jacks, and if you want to pitch around the big bats of Banister and Koria, you reach an All-American who is known to heat up at this time of the season, Roth.
Up Against RBI History: Stacie Chambers has a superlative 71 RBI in 38 games, leading the nation with almost 2 per contest. That kind of pace is difficult to keep up for a full season with Pac-10 pitching, indeed. It also underscores some of the historically significant run producers in the Arizona program. If Chambers did stay on that track, with about two dozen games left in the regular
season, she'd finish at around 99 RBI. That would be the fourth-best total in Arizona single-season history behind the NCAA-record 129 by Laura Espinoza in 1995, 109 by Jenny Dalton in 1996 and 100 by Leah Braatz in 1998. She clearly has a shot at the most recent high total, 79 by eventual Olympic gold medalist Lovie Jung in 2003, the No. 9 figure in UA history. Reaching the top 10 chart will take 78 -- the number of RBI Braatz had in 1997.
Standout Performances: Three RBI in one game is a lot. Wildcats have done it individually 46 times this year. But, that's one level. Arizona has 25 4+ RBI games. Think that's a lot? Stacie Chambers has had 5 5+ RBI games, her latest: a seven-RBI performance against New Mexico three weekends ago.
Mercy Me: In a streak that ended three weeks ago, Arizona had won five consecutive games in five innings by way of the run-ahead rule. The last Arizona squad to accomplish this feat was the 1995 team that won six straight five inning games. Keep in mind, though, that the run-rule can also be enforced after the fifth. For example, the 2003 team had a streak of six games won by the mercy rule, however, one of those games went six innings.
Yard Ball Notes: Arizona has 88 home runs, 27 of those with no runners aboard. One reason for the solo-weighted jacks is that UA has 14 leadoff homers to start innings. The club has eight grand slams: Stacie Chambers has three, while Sam Banister, Lini Koria, Kristen Arriola, K'Lee Arredondo and Brittany Lastrapes have one each. UA hit an astounding 31 home runs four weekends ago, and added 11 more this last weekend. Arizona has 169 HRBIs - runs batted in off of long balls - so far this season.
More Jack Smack: Some of Arizona's bombs have come from the usual suspects, some not. Stacie Chambers leads the team and the nation with 22, including three grand slams; Jenae Leles upped her total to 17 last week; Freshman Lini Koria has 10 jacks along with sophomore Brittany Lastrapes; Sam Banister has nine to her name; Kristen Arriola belted her fifth against NMSU; Laine Roth hit four early-season blasts; Victoria Kemp slammed her third homer of the season against Oregon, and Lauren Schutzler has belted three home runs already; Alicia Banks nabbed a pinch-hit homer against UTEP.
Going Streaking: K'Lee Arredondo picked up right where she left off and holds the team's longest hitting streak at eight games. Brittany Lastrapes and Jenae Leles sit with five-game stints under their belts. 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.
Who's No. 1?: Alicia Hollowell, Taryne Mowatt and...Jennifer Martinez? That's right. The much-traveled senior has staked her claim to the No. 1 spot in the rotation. In limited action, the La Habra, Calif. native has tallied more strikeouts than Sarah Akamine and Lindsey Sisk, all while compiling a lower ERA and better record. In 22 of the games that Martinez has appeared in, she has finished 16 of them, including picking up two wins in relief last weekend.
Double Trouble: Brittany Lastrapes has taken the doubles lead on the team. With 16, she sits three 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. Arredondo had three in the first four games this season. In historical perspective, Arredondo needs just eight more to crack the UA career top-10 for doubles.
Late-Inning Goods: The Cats could use some better focus at the plate at the ends of games. UA has played 15 run-shortened games (all victories) so the late innings have come at a somewhat discounted rate. Still, the Cats have scored 72, 51, 73, and 66 runs in the first through fourth innings and a combined 85 afterward including 24 in seventh innings. In the last four seasons, UA has compiled a 136-2 record when leading after five innings, and a 133-1 mark when ahead after six. Conversely, the Cats were 2-16 when trailing after four innings and one win fewer after five in 2008. UA dropped all 17 decisions when down after six and since 2005, Arizona is 4-49 when trailing in the final frame. If there was one tenet coach Mike Candrea has preached in his quarter-century of excellence at Arizona, it's to finish games. But UA did exactly that on Sunday, giving up a lead in the seventh but rallying to win in the bottom half.
Simple Reasoning: In Arizona's seven losses the opponents have scored 38 runs to 17 by the Cats. That will do it. In its victories the average score is Arizona 9, Opponents 3... UA has surpassed the 300 run mark for the year, something it's done every year since 1992 except for the 2005 campaign when it checked in with 261. The club is already at 347 runs, an average of 9.13 per contest.
National Leaders: On the left side of the page you will find a list of where Arizona is ranked in national statistics. Though Pac-10 season looms, Arizona's offensive prowess can be seen in the numbers. Stacie Chambers, Jenae Leles and Brittany Lastrapes account for much of Arizona's offensive firepower. In years past, this list probably would have included an Arizona pitcher or two...
Friendly Confines: Over 6,500 people came through the Hillenbrand Stadium gates to watch the home opening weekend. With three dates this past week, 6,964 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 2,312 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 9th in the NFCA poll and 14th in the USA Softball/ESPN.com poll.
Arizona Softball in Historical Perspective: Arizona began play in 1974 and sports an all-time record of 1,518-436-2. The Cats are 358-95-1 in Pac-10 play, which began in 1987. Since 1982 and NCAA Division I Championships play began, Arizona is 1,344-330-2. 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 496-39, 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 174-25 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. 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 "Watch List:" Senior third baseman Jenae Leles and sophomore outfielder Brittany Lastrapes were named to the exclusive 50-name preseason list. Arizona is scheduled to face many of the highly-touted players.
Lowe's Senior CLASS Award Watch: Jenae Leles was named to the 30 player list for the award. Laine Roth was named to the preseason list along with Leles, and Caitlin Lowe won the inaugural award in 2007.
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.