April 26, 2004
The Arizona softball team stays home for a two-week, seven-game, stretch to close its home schedule. This week it's Pac-10 rivals Arizona State, Cal and Stanford. Coming off their first Pac-10 loss of the season against No. 13 Oregon, the top-ranked Cats will look to rebound against ASU (31-23, 1-9 Pac-10) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, No. 4 Cal (38-10, 5-7 Pac-10) at 7 p.m. Friday, No. 10 Stanford (37-12, 7-4 Pac-10) at 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Larry Ray (Idaho State '74) is 45-2 in his tenure as acting head coach of the Wildcats, making a strong bid for coach of the year honors. Including five seasons (four of competition) building a Florida program he has a career record of 214-108. His work with the Arizona program dates to 1986 and he was Candrea's top assistant for 10 years. UA's start of 34-0 to open the year gave Ray the best start in Arizona history. Acting associate head coach Nancy Evans, a former Honda Award winner as a player, has been an assistant at UA since 1999.
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.
The top-ranked Wildcats traveled to Oregon last week with their best-ever record of 43-1 and came away with victories over No. 16 Oregon State and No. 13 Oregon, but dropped their first game of the conference season to Oregon on Sunday. In Corvallis, the Cats' offense steamrolled the Beavers in just five innings, outscoring OSU 9-1, plus Alicia Hollowell and Wendy Allen combined for a no-hitter. Arizona led off the first with singles by speedsters Caitlin Lowe and Autumn Champion, followed by a two-RBI double by Allen, who later added another RBI double. OSU scored its run in the second with two walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch by Hollowell. In the first game vs. the Ducks, Arizona took an early lead in the first when Allen socked her seventh home run of the year. Oregon tied it in the bottom of the first with a homer by Jenn Poore off Hollowell. The score stayed tied until the fifth, when the Cats exploded for five runs. In Sunday's game, Arizona suffered just its second loss of the season and its first defeat in the Pac-10. Oregon pitchers Amy Harris and Ani Nyhus held UA to five hits and shut out the Cats for the only time this year. In the bottom of the eighth, Ducks third baseman Ashley Richards led off with a walk-off homer off Hollowell.
UA has been No. 1 for six 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: 1/1. April 21: 1/1. April 28: 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. Caitlin Lowe was named ASA National Player of the Week for April 12-18 after hitting .545 with five runs versus Cal and Stanford.
Pac-10 Standings: 1. Arizona 9-1 (45-2). 2. Stanford 8-4 (37-12), Oregon 8-4 (34-12). 4. UW 6-4 (32-11). 5. Cal (5-7 (38-10). 6. UCLA 4-6 (31-7), 7. OSU 3-9 (37-17). 8. ASU 1-9 (31-23).
Wildcat Softball Notes
...UA saw its 11-game winning streak end at Oregon. It opened the year with a 34-0 streak... ...In the latest NCAA Division I statistical rankings, Arizona was leading the nation in batting average and was second in scoring, plus seventh in team earned run average and 17th in fielding... Autumn Champion and Caitlin Lowe were 1-2 in batting average, Wendy Allen was leading the nation in RBI per game, Alicia Hollowell was leading the nation in strikeouts per seven innings and Lowe was tops in scoring and second in stolen bases... Mackenzie Vandergeest was third in RBI per game... ...Arizona could be well on the way toward another 50-victory season. It's true to form. The Cats have won a minimum of 53 games for 10 consecutive seasons, and have won 50 or more games 13 times in the past 16 years, not counting the opportunity this year... UA won 60 games in a year five times during that span... Here's another way of looking at it: the Cats have posted an average record of 60-7 in the past decade... ...Three of the top nine home run hitters in NCAA history were Wildcats entering the season, and Mackenzie Vandergeest put a fourth UA player in the group this year. Vandergeest has 58, rating her No. 9 on the list... Vandergeest reached the NCAA Top 10 career RBI leaders this year, too, checking in with 241 for the No. 7 spot... ...Arizona has scored more runs in first innings, 73, than its opponents have scored all year -- 56. The team likes to get in front early, apparently... UA pitching coach Nancy Evans owns the NCAA pitching percentage record of .928 for an amazing 120-8 mark compiled in four seasons (1994-95 and 1997-98). It's a seemingly unassailable record. Her pupil, sophomore Alicia Hollowell is coming along with a career record of 72-6 in two seasons... ...Caitlin Lowe has 68 runs and could reach the UA top 10 chart with four more... Former All-American sluggers Leah Braatz (75), Laura Espinoza (75) and Jenny Dalton (74) occupy Nos. 8-10... ...Wendy Allen had three doubles and a home run in a 4-for-7 week, plus knocked in five more runs. She's within reach of the UA single-season RBI chart with 65, a baker's dozen short of Leah Braatz' 78 in 1997... Her 16 doubles tie for No. 7 on the single-season chart... ...Alicia Hollowell broke her single-season strikeout record last week, sitting down 30 batters in three games to reach 400, eclipsing her 394 of a year ago. That makes her the 21st player in NCAA history to reach the 400 mark... Hollowell's 32-1 record is the eight-highest victory total in UA history and her 72 career victories put her at No. 6... Her career 794 K is No. 4... ...With just one partial season as the head coach, UA's Larry Ray has ascended to No. 20 on the Pac-10's career coaching victories chart with his 45-2 mark... ...Caitlin Lowe has stolen 41 bases in 42 tries. That ties her for the fifth-best total by a UA player in one season ...Autumn Champion, Lowe and Hollowell were all named among 25 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award earlier in April... ...Hollowell, Wendy Allen and Leslie Wolfe have combined for 511 strikeouts in 308 innings pitched, the fourth-best season total behind Jennie Finch/Becky Lemke teams in 2000-2002... ...Arizona has outscored opponents 316-53, but has proven it's a tough team in close games. The Oregon loss gave UA a 14-2 record in games decided by three runs or less... ...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.