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Cats Open Pac-10 Season at Home
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/25/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 25, 2009

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Cats Open Pac-10 Season at Home

 

Up Next: After sweeping New Mexico State in a doubleheader last Wednesday, the No. 11 Arizona Wildcats (28-7) are rested and ready to host the Oregon schools and open up Pacific-10 Conference play at Hillenbrand Stadium.

 

Friday, March 27             vs. Oregon State, 7 p.m. (Hillenbrand Stadium)

 

Saturday, March 28       vs. Oregon, 7 p.m.

 

Sunday, March 29          vs. Oregon, 11 a.m.

 

Noting the Beavers: Oregon State (16-13) is led by senior Paige Lowe with a .345 average at the dish. The sister of UA four-time All-American Caitlin Lowe has slugged a team-high 30 hits and six home runs. Sophomore Audrey Roderfeld (.321) and junior Dani Chisholm (.310) are also hitting above .300. In the circle, freshman Paige Hall (9-4) leads the staff with a 2.03 ERA. Junior Kelly Dyer (7-9) has pitched more innings, but touts a lower ERA at 2.46.

 

Noting the Ducks: Oregon (10-17) is once again led by junior Neena Bryant, who touts a .384 average at the plate. The Placentia, Calif. native has a team-high 33 hits on the season and has tallied 19 RBI. Senior Sari-Jane Jenkins (.359) and sophomore Cortney Kivett (.356) are also in a battle for the team lead in batting average. Freshman Samantha Skillingstad (7-6) has racked up a 1.85 ERA in 79.2 innings pitched. She has struck out 84 and has issued only 24 walks. Both she and either freshman Mikayla Endicott (2-3) or sophomore Brittany Rumfelt (1-4) should see action over the weekend in the circle.

 

Last Week: UA road-tripped to Las Cruces, N.M. for a Wednesday doubleheader against the New Mexico State Aggies:

 

In Game 1, Arizona rallied from a one-run deficit in the final frame, putting up a four-spot and defeating the Aggies 8-5. Nine of UA’s 11 hits went for extra bases as Jenae Leles’s seventh-inning two-run home run put Arizona on top. Lini Koria followed with another two-run shot later in the inning. Jennifer Martinez picked up the win in relief, as NMSU jumped out to 3-1 and 5-3 leads. Sarah Akamine was credited was bailed out of a loss by the late surge.

 

Game 2 was much of the same for the Cats. Trailing late, UA rallied once again – this time in the sixth inning – and tallied five more in the seventh to win 10-5. Reigning National Player of the Week Stacie Chambers hit a two-run shot to give the Cats a 5-4 lead. Six base hits in the seventh helped UA to their final margin. The powerful Arizona offense once again got a pitcher off the hook; Lindsey Sisk was in line for the loss, but Jennifer Martinez nabbed another W in relief. Sarah Akamine also saw two innings of action.

 

Injury Update: K’Lee Arredondo has not seen game action since March 7 because of a recurring hamstring injury suffered in the USF Wilson Tournament in mid-February. Arredondo hopes to return this weekend, as Arizona could use her .354 batting average and rock-solid defense in the lineup for conference play.

 

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 to the left.

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 1,159-235-2 (.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.

 

Up Against RBI History: Stacie Chambers has a superlative 68 RBI in 35 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 40 times this year. But, that's one level. Arizona has 19 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 two weekends ago.

 

Mercy Me: In a streak that ended two 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 77 home runs, 23 of those with no runners aboard. One reason for the solo-weighted jacks is that UA has 12 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 three weekends ago, and added seven more this last weekend. Arizona has 147 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 20, including three grand slams; Jenae Leles upped her total to 13 last week; Freshman Lini Koria has 10 jacks along with sophomore Brittany Lastrapes; Sam Banister has eight to her name; Kristen Arriola belted her fourth against NMSU; Laine Roth hit four early-season blasts; Lauren Schutzler has belted two three home runs already; Victoria Kemp slammed her second homer of the season against Notre Dame, and Alicia Banks nabbed a pinch-hit homer against UTEP.

 

Going Streaking: Though she hasn’t seen action since the Hillenbrand Invitational, K’Lee Arredondo actually holds the team’s longest hitting streak at five games. Kristen Arriola is close behind with a three-game stint, and five other Wildcats are riding on two. 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 19 of the games that Martinez has appeared in, she has finished them, including picking up two wins in relief last week at New Mexico State.

 

Double Trouble: Brittany Lastrapes has taken the doubles lead on the team. With 14, she sits five 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 14 run-shortened games (all victories) so the late innings have come at a somewhat discounted rate. Still, the Cats have scored 67, 39, 72, and 60 runs in the first through fourth innings and a combined 79 afterward including 21 in seventh innings. In the last four seasons, UA has compiled a 134-2 record when leading after five innings, and a 131-1 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 3-49 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.

 

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 2... 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 one away already at 317 runs, an average of 9.06 per contest.

Where’d the Bats Go?: Arizona tied New Mexico State in hits in the second game of the doubleheader last week. Two weeks ago, UA was outhit by both Texas and New Mexico. Fortunately, all contests resulted in W’s for the Cats. They account for the only two wins when being outhit by an opponent this season. UA was 3-11 when being outhit last season, and is 2-6 this year. The Cats are 2-1 when scattering the same amount of hits as opponents.

 

Friendly Confines: Over 6,500 people came through the Hillenbrand Stadium gates to watch the home opening weekend. With five dates this past week, 11,706 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 2,308 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 11th in NFCA poll and 15th in the USA Softball/ESPN.com poll.

 

Smarty Cats: Shortstop K’Lee Arredondo was named to last season’s Pac-10 All-Academic first team, and outfielder Jill Malina was named to the 2007 Pac-10 All-Academic second team.

 

Arizona Softball in Historical Perspective: Arizona began play in 1974 and sports an all-time record of 1,515-436-2. The Cats are 355-95-1 in Pac-10 play, which began in 1987. Since 1982 and NCAA Division I Championships play began, Arizona is 1,341-330-2. 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.

 

 

 

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