April 12, 2004
The Arizona softball team takes its unbeaten league record (4-0) to some tough venues in the Bay Area for games Friday at Stanford and at California in Berkeley on Saturday-Sunday. The Cardinal (31-10, 3-3) play a non-conference doubleheader Tuesday against Sacramento State; California (35-6, 3-3) swept a doubleheader from Stanford last Saturday and will play at Santa Clara Tuesday and meet ASU in Berkeley before playing host to the Wildcats. UA twice beat Stanford earlier this year in tourney play in Tucson (2-1 and 7-5). California took two games from Arizona in the last meetings - at Oklahoma City in the College World Series last May.
Larry Ray (Idaho State '74) is 40-1 in his tenure as acting head coach of the Wildcats. Including five seasons (four of competition) building a Florida program he has a career record of 209-107. His work with the Arizona program dates to 1986 and he was Candrea's top assistant for 10 years. Acting associate head coach Nancy Evans, a former Honda Award winner as a player, has been an assistant at UA since 1999. UA's start of 34-0 to open the year gave Ray the best start in Arizona history.
Arizona's Mike Candrea carries a career record of 982-191 in 18 years at UA, but put it on hold this season while he's on partial leave to be head coach of the U.S. Olympic Team. The eight-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year is a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He has led Arizona to six national championships and seven Pac-10 titles. Candrea has led UA to 16 consecutive College World Series.
No. 1 Arizona traveled to Tempe and won a pair of games from in-state rival Arizona State, 6-0 and 8-0, Friday and Saturday. Pitcher Alicia Hollowell threw a three-hitter in the first game and a one-hitter in the second game, and an 18-hit attack gave the Cats plenty of scoring margin. The victories moved UA to 40-1 on the year and within one victory of tying its best-ever start, the 41-1 mark put up by the 1994 team. Freshman shortstop Kristie Fox drove in five runs with four hits for the Cats in the two games at ASU, and Mackenzie Vandergeest socked her 12th home run of the year to give UA an eight-run lead and end the second game in six innings. Jackie Coburn hit a two-run bunt single past a drawn-in infield in the second game. Hollowell struck out 15 hitters in the first game and retired the last 10 batters in the Saturday game after the lone hit by the Sun Devils.
UA has been No. 1 for three weeks, giving it the top spot in the NFCA poll at least once every year since 1993. Arizona was ranked No. 2 in the preseason NFCA poll, and No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll. Feb. 11: 2/3. Feb. 18: 2/3. Feb. 25: 2/2. March 3: 2/2. March 10: 2/2. March 17: 1/1. March 24: 1/1. March 30:1/1. April 7: 1/1. April 14: TBA. UA has been ranked steadily since 1988 by the NFCA.
Players of the Week
Pitcher Alicia Hollowell earned the Pac-10 weekly honor four times this year - Feb. 24, March 2, March 9 and March 22. She also was USA Softball National Player of the Week March 22 after five victories at the Kia Klassic. Outfielder Autumn Champion won league Player of the Week honors Feb. 17, Wendy Allen won Feb. 24, and soph first baseman Shelly Schultz won April 13 after her two hits both beat No. 2 UCLA in successive games. Those are the 89th Pac-10 weekly honors for UA, and ninth for Hollowell in her short career.
Wildcat Softball Notes
...Caitlin Lowe has 60 runs scored in 41 games, putting her within 15 runs of checking in at No. 8 on the Arizona single-season Top 10 chart. Former All-American sluggers Leah Braatz (75), Laura Espinoza (75) and Jenny Dalton (74) occupy No. 8-10... ...Platoon outfielder Allyson Von Liechtenstein continues to contribute with her bat and base-running. The junior rightfielder is hitting .444 in 29 games played, plus scored 17 runs and stole 10 bases. Von Liechtenstein, Crystal Farley (.327, 29 games, 19 runs) and Candace Abrams (.277, 28 games, 3 homers and 14 RBI) give UA different options. Abrams has six pinch-hits in 10 such at bats, another good feature for the trio... ...As difficult as it is to believe, Alicia Hollowell's 27-0 pitching record hasn't reached the Top 15 victories chart for UA, although the percentage is surely there. In 2000, Jennie Finch (29-2 ) and Becky Lemke (29-8) put up the No. 14 (tie) victories mark. Finch had an NCAA-record 32-0 record in 2001. Hollowell went 40-5 last year to take the No. 1 spot in season victories. She's No. 7 on the career chart with a 67-5 record... The strikeout records will all be hers in due time. Her 345 K this year is No. 3 on the season list (she's No. 1 with 394 last year) and her career total of 739 in one and two-thirds seasons is already No. 4 on the career chart. She passed 1998 Honda Award winner Nancy Evans (733) last week, and next up is Susie Parra (874 from 1991-94). Finch struck out 1,028 in her four years ending in 2001... Her 345 strikeouts already is the ninth-best season total in Pac-10 history... ...Utility player Wendy Allen leads the club with 55 runs batted in, but is being pushed by Mackenzie Vandergeest with 54. Vandergeest leads the team with 12 home runs, while Allen leads with 19 extra-base hits... It's not likely this year's UA squad will be considered one of the best home run hitting teams, with 54 total, 15 shy of the top five mark of 79 by the 1998 team... A year ago UA hit 70... Vandergeest has 56 career blasts, No. 4 on UA's career chart... ...With part of just one season as the head coach, UA's Larry Ray has ascended to No. 24 on the Pac-10's career coaching victories chart with his 40-1 mark... Ten more victories would put him at No. 19... ...Caitlin Lowe and Autumn Champion have combined at the top of the order for 62 stolen bases in 66 attempts. Lowe has been caught stealing just once this season. Her total of 39 steals is No. 6 in UA history and trails No. 2 (Vivian Holm, 49-53 in 1987) by 10. The season record is 67 by Alison McCutcheon in 1998... ...Hollowell, Wendy Allen and Leslie Wolfe have combined for 454 strikeouts in 267 innings pitched, an average of 11.9 per seven innings... The pace would blow away the school-record 9.8 strikeouts per seven innings pitched by the 2001 team staffed by Jennie Finch, Becky Lemke and Jenny Gladding... ...Champion, Lowe and Hollowell were all named among 25 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award last week... ...Arizona has outscored opponents 303-51, but has proven it's a tough team in close games. One-third of the 39 games have been decided by three runs or less and UA is 12-1 in those contests... ...Arizona has put in a bid to play host for an NCAA Division I Softball Championships regional to be held at eight sites around the country. The field of 64 for the tournament will be selected Sunday, May 16. ...After this week's trip to Stanford and California, Arizona stays on the road for three games in Oregon... The Cats return home for a Wednesday, April 28, game vs. ASU and then face Cal and Stanford at Hillenbrand Stadium...