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Arizona Softball Postseason Guide
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 05/20/2005
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON, Ariz. ?- For the eighth time in nine years, Arizona softball will host an NCAA Regional at Hillenbrand Stadium.  The co-Pac-10 champion Wildcats will play host to Lehigh (41-8), Princeton (35-8) and Oklahoma State (33-22) in Tucson, Friday through Sunday.

 

Arizona (39-10), which has won five of its last six games, enters postseason play as the third seed, with Michigan and California taking the top two national spots, respectively.  All eight Pac-10 schools were awarded bids to the tournament, as the Conference of Champions earned five of the top eight seeds in the bracket of 64.

 

Day

Time (MST/PDT)

Game

Friday, May 20

4 p.m.

G1  Princeton vs. Oklahoma State

Friday, May 20

6:30 p.m.

G2  Arizona vs. Lehigh

Saturday, May 21

1:30 p.m.

G3  Winner 1 vs. Winner 2

Saturday, May 21

4 p.m.

G4  Loser G1 vs. Loser G2

Saturday, May 21

6:30 p.m.

G5  Winner G4 vs. Loser G3

Sunday, May 22

12 noon

G6  Winner G3 vs. Winner G5

Sunday, May 22

2:30 p.m. (IF)

Repeat G6 if both teams have a loss

 

This year, the NCAA switched to the baseball-style championships, in which four teams will compete at 16 regional sites.  The 16 regional winners will then be paired off to eight sites, where the teams will play a three-game series against another regional winner.  The eight Super Regional winners will then head to Oklahoma City, Okla., for the Women’s College World Series.  In the past, eight sites hosted eight teams each, with each regional winner advancing straight to the WCWS.

 

Arizona earned the No. 3 overall seed in the tournament after its climb to the top of the league standings with the strong finish. The Pac-10 title was split four-ways among Oregon State, California, Stanford and Arizona -- all at 13-8. Each of the other schools lost on the final day or otherwise any one of them could have won the championship outright. Arizona lost at California Friday, before beating Stanford twice.

 

Arizona and UCLA are the only Pac-10 teams to host. The NCAA announced only the top 16 seeds and Pac-10 teams earned six of those seeds them -- California (2), Arizona (3), Stanford (6), UCLA (7), Oregon State (8) and Washington (16). The field was announced as Regions 1-16. Tucson is Region 3.

 

Other sites and host schools are Ann Arbor (top-ranked Michigan), Lincoln, Neb. (Nebraska), South Bend, Ind. (Notre Dame), Madison, Wis. (Wisconsin), College Station, Texas, (Texas A&M), Tuscaloosa (Alabama), Auburn, Ala. (Auburn), Gainesville, Fla. (Florida), Austin, Texas (Texas), Norman, Okla. (Oklahoma), Knoxville, Tenn. (Tennessee), Columbia, Mo. (Missouri), Los Angeles (UCLA), and Athens, Ga. (Georgia) and Fresno, Calif. (Fresno State)

 

 

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

 

How They Got To Tucson ?-

 

Arizona (39-10, 13-8) earned the third seed in the NCAA Tournament after winning five of its last six Pac-10 games.  Despite being a co-Pac-10 champion, Arizona’s bid was at-large, as Oregon State received the conference’s automatic bid. 

 

Lehigh (41-8, 20-0) established a new school and Patriot League record for victories in a season, surpassing the mark of 40 set by last year’s team. The Mountain Hawks won the Patriot League Tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament last week. Last year's Lehigh team was seeded seventh in the Lincoln, Neb., region. Lehigh posted an 0-2 record in last year’s tournament, losing 6-0 to host Nebraska and 3-0 to Florida Atlantic.

 

Oklahoma State (33-22, 7-11) earned an at-large bid out of the Big 12 Conference that is sending eight teams to the NCAA Tournament.  Tucson, Ariz., native Stephanie Nicholson boasts a .366 batting average and ranks in the top 10 in five career categories at OSU.

 

Princeton (35-8, 12-2) enters the NCAA Tournament just like it did in 2003, as the Ivy League champion headed to Tucson.  The Tigers earned their automatic bid with the help of senior centerfielder Melissa Finley.  Finley led Princeton with her .321 batting average and 24 RBI.

 

Field of 64 ?- The NCAA expanded the field from 48 to 64 teams in 2003, following the continued growth of college softball as a championship sport.  The Pac-10 qualified all eight of its teams for the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in six years. The other selected Pac-10 teams, their seedings and sites are California (2) at Fresno, Calif.; (6) Stanford at Columbia, Mo.; (7) UCLA at Los Angeles, Calif.; (8) Oregon State at Madison, Wis.; (16) Washington at Lincoln, Neb.; Arizona State at Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Oregon at Norman, Okla.

 

Arizona’s NCAA Appearance -- Arizona appears in its 19th consecutive NCAA regional playoff (19th overall) since 1987, all under coach Mike Candrea, except in the case of last year when Larry Ray acted as head coach.  Last year, Arizona had its streak of 16 consecutive trips to the Women’s College World Series snapped when the Wildcats lost to Louisiana-Lafayette. 

 

Arizona has a record of 97-28 (.776) in NCAA games including a 52-8 mark (.867) in NCAA Regional play.  Arizona is 41-4 in regional games played in Tucson and 11-4 in Regional games played elsewhere. UA last traveled to Regional play in 2003 to Minneapolis, and in 1996 to Tallahassee, Fla.

 

Arizona vs. the Tucson NCAA Field ?- Oklahoma State visited Old Pueblo for the season-opening Arizona Pepsi Classic at Hillenbrand Stadium, but Lehigh and Princeton will be new foes to this year’s Wildcats.  UA defeated the Cowgirls, 4-1, in a game in which Leslie Wolfe started and won.  At the plate, Kristie Fox ate up OSU pitching, going two-for-two with two runs and three RBI with a home run.  Arizona has never faced OSU in regional play, but holds a record of 3-2 against the Cowgirls in WCWS play.

 

The Wildcats did not face Princeton when the Tigers came to the Tucson Regional in 2003.  The only time the two programs have faced off in postseason play came in the WCWS in Oklahoma City back in 1995.  Arizona defeated the Tigers, 9-1, in five innings, the first of three “mercies” UA handed out before falling to UCLA in the title game.

 

UA has never faced Lehigh in postseason play.

 

Arizona vs. Entire NCAA Field ?- Arizona was 24-10 against teams selected to appear in the NCAA Tournament, including its 13-8 record against Pac-10 teams in the field.  The Cats beat all Pac-10 teams, with the exception of UCLA.  Games against non-Pac-10 teams included wins over Northwestern, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Miami (Ohio), Florida State, Oklahoma, Fresno State, and two victories over Louisiana-Lafayette.  The two losses came to fourth-seeded Texas and top-seeded Michigan.  Of the teams UA could face in a Super Regional, UA has already played three of the four teams (Oklahoma, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Oregon).  Wichita State would be the only new opponent.

 

Regional Openers

Arizona is 16-2 in first-round NCAA action. Both losses came at the hands of in-state rival Arizona State in 1987 in Tempe, 4-3, and in Tucson in 1990, 1-0.

 

Cats in the Polls -- Arizona has been in the top four all year in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The latter poll made its debut in 2003. In the NFCA poll, Arizona has been ranked steadily since 1988. Here's how Arizona has fared in the polls this year (dates are Wednesdays in season):

 

ESPN.com/USA Softball: 3 (5/10), 3(5/3), 2(4/26), 3(4/19), 2(4/12), 2(4/5), 2(3/29), 2(3/22), 1(3/15), 1(3/8), 1(3/1), 1(2/22), 1(2/15)

 

NFCA/USA Today: 3 (5/10), 2 (5/4), 2(4/27), 4(4/20), 2(4/13), 2(4/6), 2(3/30), 2(3/23), 1(3/16), 1(3/9), 1(3/2), 2(2/23), 2(2/16)

 

Cats vs. Ranked Opponents -- Arizona played to a 17-9 record against teams ranked in the poll this year, with only one loss to a non-ranked opponent.

 

UA on TV: Arizona played nine games on national television in 2005, for a record of 5-4.  Eight of the games were televised on ESPN’s family of networks and one was on CSTV.  Of the eight ESPN games, UA dropped three contests to UCLA (two in Los Angeles, one in Tucson), defeated Oregon twice in Tucson, lost to Oregon State once in Tucson, and defeated Washington twice in Tucson.  Arizona defeated Stanford in Palo Alto for the CSTV game.  UA’s game against Washington in Seattle was scheduled to be televised on Fox Sports Net via tape delay, but the game was suspended due to rain.

 

Arizona Head Coach

Mike Candrea (Arizona State ’78) is in his 20th year with Arizona and carries a career record of 1021-201 (.836). Candrea returned to Arizona after taking a year off to coach the U.S. 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, in January. Candrea’s award, given for outstanding service to the USOC and the Olympic movement, marked the first time in history that 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.

 

Arizona Assistant Coaches

Larry Ray (Idaho State ?'74) took over as head coach for Mike acting assistant head coach in 2004, while Candrea coached the U.S. Olympic Team.  He carries an overall record of 224-112, as a head coach including five years at the helm of Florida. Associate head coach Nancy Evans is a former Honda Award winner as a player at Arizona. Evans has been an assistant at UA since 1999.

 

Players of the Week

Pitcher Alicia Hollowell earned Pac-10 weekly honors twice this year ?- Feb. 15 and March 1.  Player of the Year candidate Caitlin Lowe brought home Pac-10 honors March 29, while senior Jackie Coburn got conference recognition March 29.  Kristie Fox was named USA Softball Player of the Week for her efforts in the first week of the season on Feb. 7.  Amongst the teams Fox knocked around, Oklahoma State. 

           

Arizona Notes

 

Where’s the Jewelry? Since 1988 (Mike Candrea’s third year), every four-year player for Arizona has left UA with at least one championship ring.  Should this year’s squad fail to win a championship, seniors Crystal Farley, Allyson Von Liechtenstein, Jackie Coburn, and fourth-year junior Courtney Fossatti would leave without a ring.  To put in perspective the duration of the streak, the last time a four-year player left Old Pueblo without hardware was the year next year’s freshman class was born. Fifth-year senior Candace Abrams was on the 2001 national championship team as a redshirt.  Also, senior Jen Martinez is in her second year with UA after attending Pima CC.

 

Leading Off: Caitlin Lowe led off 15 of 21 Pac-10 games this year by reaching base.  In the last 27 total games, Lowe reached base 20 times to start things up.

 

Lowe Impact: Caitlin Lowe’s 28 multi-hit games nearly double that of the next Wildcat.  Kristie Fox’s 15 and Autumn Champion’s 14 multi-hit games are tied for second.

 

Speed Demon: Caitlin Lowe’s four triples leave her needing one more to break into UA’s record book to fall into a seven-way tie for eighth place.  Should she hit one more three-bagger, Lowe would be tied with, among others, Rocky LaRose, Arizona’s Senior Associate Athletics Director.  Two more triples would place Lowe in a tie for third.

 

Record Setter?: If the season ended today, Caitlin Lowe’s .518 batting average would place her second on UA’s all-time list.  Alison McCutcheon has a benchmark .534 average that she amassed in 1997.  Last year, current UA junior Autumn Champion brought home the NCAA batting title with her .489 average.

 

Forget Pencil, Use a Sharpie: Caitlin Lowe, Autumn Champion, and Kristie Fox have batted in the first, second, and third positions (in that order) in all 49 of UA’s games, thus far.

 

Driving the Team to Victory: Kristie Fox leads the team with 16 multi-RBI games and Jackie Coburn is next with nine.  Fox is also the only Wildcat with a five-RBI game this year; of which she has three.

 

Learn to Love the Glove: After failing to have a fielding percentage above .965 in her first three seasons, Jackie Coburn has turned it around. Coming off a 12-error junior year, in which she had the worst fielding percentage of regular Wildcat starters, Coburn has committed just one error in 196 chances.  Entering the postseason, she ranks 10th in fielding percentage for a season in the UA record book.

 

Taking after the Senior Leader: Arizona’s .978 fielding percentage is good for third-best in school history.  The 2001 national champs have the best fielding percentage in school history with a .981 mark.

 

Waiting to Turn Two: Through 49 games of solid fielding, UA is still waiting to roll up a double play via a ground ball.  The Wildcats have grounded into two twin-killings this season.

 

Solid All Around: At regular season’s end, Arizona ranked first in hitting and fielding, and second in pitching among Pac-10 teams for all games in 2005.

 

CAT-alysts: Caitlin Lowe and Autumn Champion have generated a 1-2 punch unlike any other in the nation.  The pair of outfielders have a combined on-base percentage of 1.002, and have either scored or driven in 48 percent of UA’s total runs on the year.  Additionally, they are Arizona’s top two leaders in batting average, on-base percentage, and stolen bases, all without committing an error in the field.

 

If Someone Gets on Base: Hitting behind Caitlin Lowe and Autumn Champion has its advantages for a hitter looking for RBI.  Kristie Fox’s nation-leading (at time of release) 63 RBI can be attributed both to Lowe and Champion’s ability to get on base, as well as Fox’s capability of capitalizing.

 

Fox is hitting .421 (45-for-107) with runners on base, but drops to .235 (12-for-51) with the bases empty.

 

Bases Loaded? Not after She Hits: Fox has been equally dominant with the bases loaded, hitting 8-for-15 (.533) with the bases juiced. 

 

They Like them Loaded, Too: Jen Martinez is hitting .600 (3-for-5), while Caitlin Lowe has come through three of seven times for UA with the bases loaded this year, but no other Wildcat is hitting above .200 with three runners on base.

 

The Dead Ball Era: Arizona’s 25 home runs are the lowest team total since the NCAA switched from the softer, white ball to the harder, yellow ball in 1993.  UA has had at least double this year’s total in nine of the last 11 years.

 

Killing Me Softly: Despite having the best team batting average of all Pac-10 teams, UA ranks fifth in the conference in slugging.

 

Switching to Small Ball: Arizona’s 43 sacrifices are just four more than last year’s 39.  To put the figure in perspective, UA has moved over one of every 12.9 runners to reach base this season.  In 2004, the Wildcats squared around once for every 19.9 runners on the base paths.

 

To Run or Not to Run, the Pac-10 is the Question: In 21 Pac-10 games, Arizona stole 13 bases (.6/g), but in non-conference contests the Wildcats swiped 48 bags in 28 games (1.7/g).

 

Clutch with Two: Despite some struggles as a team with two outs this year, Autumn Champion and Callista Balko have seen the majority of their RBI come while having to keep an inning alive.  Seven of Champion’s eight ribbies have come with two out, while 13 of Balko’s 19 runs driven in have come with two down.

 

DP ?- Designated Pinch Runner: Although Adrienne Acton has started five of the last six games.  She has made her mark as a pinch runner this year.  Despite having just four hits on the year, Acton has scored 13 runs and is five-for-seven (.714) in stolen bases.

 

Pinch Hits: Candace Abrams has three of UA’s six pinch hits this year.  Abrams has not had much success when coming up with two outs, however, as she is hitting .056 (1-18) with two down.

 

Contact Hitter? Jackie Coburn, who now has 50 career home runs (good for sixth on UA’s all-time list), leads the Cats with 26 walks, and has just one more strikeout than base on balls.  Kristie Fox is the Cat with more walks than K’s, with 14 and 12, respectively. Ironically, Coburn is third on the team in slugging, while Fox is first.

 

Stealing Bases: The Cats are 61-for-70 (.847) in stolen bases this year, as compared to Arizona’s opponents, which have stolen 13 of 21 (.591).  The top of the order for the Cats (Caitlin Lowe, Autumn Champion and Kristie Fox) has combined to steal 46 bags. 

 

Start the Bus: The Wildcats are 34-0 when leading after four innings.  Additionally, UA has yet to lose a game in which they score five runs, but has yet to win a game in which opponents score four runs or more.

 

Still Good 100 Times Over: Alicia Hollowell now ranks third on the UA all-time list with 108 career victories.  UA legend Jennie Finch is next on Hollowell’s radar with 119 wins.  Current assistant coach Nancy Evans is the all-time leader with 124.  Hollowell needs 43 wins this year to catch Evans, after having 41 and 40 win seasons the last two years, respectively.  Hollowell’s last two 40-win seasons were firsts for any UA pitcher.

 

The New K Queen: In the Feb. 27 victory over Baylor, Alicia Hollowell became the Wildcats’ all-time leader in strikeouts.  Her current K-count stands at 1,283.  Hollowell had trailed Jennie Finch, who had 1028 punch-outs in her career. 

 

Waving Good-Bye: Of Alicia Hollowell’s 381 strikeouts on the season, 284 have gone down swinging (75 percent).

 

More Hollowell History: After pitching the second and third-most innings for any UA pitcher in a season, Hollowell will eclipse the four former Wildcats ahead of her on the career list, should she pitch 287 innings this year, which is six innings fewer than she threw last year, and 10 fewer than her freshman season.  At the conclusion of the regular season, she had thrown 225. 

 

Conference of Champions: In the last 10 years, eight national champions have come from the Pacific-10 Conference.  Five of the top eight seeds in the NCAA Tournament come from the Pac-10.

 

POSSIBLE LINEUP:

 

26 Caitlin Lowe

Sophomore

Center fielder

Reached base to lead off a game 20 of the final 27 regular season games ... Failed to reach base in just five of 49 regular season games on the year ... Went 5-for-7 (.714) with three runs scored and two RBI with a home run at Stanford in the final two games of the regular season ... In Arizona's final three regular season games, Lowe either scored or drove in all four of the team's runs ... Enters postseason with a nine-game hit streak and 28 multi-hit games ... Went 3-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBI in an April 23 win over Arizona State ... Hit .650 (7-20) over the course of a modest seven-game hit streak from April 8-23 ...Had four consecutive multi-hit games March 25-April 2 ... Opened Pac-10 play by going 3-for-3 with three runs scored in an April 1 win over Stanford ... Named Pac-10 Player of the Week for Mar. 22-30 when she hit .572 with an inside-the-park grand slam in two wins over No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette Hit .680 (17-25) in a six game stretch in March ... Went 4-for-5 with four runs, three RBI, and her first home run of the season, an inside-the-park job scored over North Carolina State ... Went 3-for-4 with a stolen base, a run, and an RBI in a win over UNLV ... Had the first 4-for-4 game of anyone on the team in a victory over Louisiana Tech ...  Led team with .583 batting average at Baylor's Compass Bank Invitational ... Accumulated a .583 on-base percentage and .545 batting average to lead team to three wins in Worth Wildcat Invitational ... Opened the year with eight hits and six stolen bases in UA's five games of the Pepsi Arizona Classic, including three in a win over Kansas.

 

00 Autumn Champion

Junior

Left fielder

Led the team with 11 sacrifice bunts, after having 12 combined sacs in the last two seasons ... Went 5-for-6 in two home wins over Washington ... One game after 10-game hit streak was snapped, Champion began a seven-game streak ... 2-for-2 with three runs scored in April 30 victory over No. 7 Oregon State ... In three games against in-state rival ASU, went 7-for-10 ... Went 18-for-37 (.486) during 10-game hitting streak from March 18-April 10 ... Had four consecutive multi-hit games, all against ranked teams at the end of the Kia Klassic ... Went three-for-four with two runs and two stolen bases in a win over Fresno State at the Kia Klassic on March 20 ... Went two-for-three, with a stolen base, in a win against Louisiana Tech to begin a 10-game hitting streak on Feb. 26 ... 2-for-2 with a stolen base and a run scored in a victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga on Feb. 13 ...  Stole a pair of bases in Pepsi Classic and had two sacrifice hits.

 

29 Kristie Fox

Sophomore

Shortstop

Homered and doubled, while scoring three runs an driving in two in a 9-0 win over Oregon State on April 30 ... 2-for-4 with five RBI in a 10-3 win over Arizona State ... Drove in three of UA's four runs in a 5-4 loss to UCLA on April 17 ... Responded to a season-long four-game hitless streak by going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI against Oregon on April 10 ... Hit a two-out walk-off grand slam to beat

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