June 21, 2003
The University of Arizona softball team capped another stellar year with a 56-7 overall record. UA finished 19-2 for its seventh Pacific-10 Conference Championship. The Wildcats and coach Mike Candrea made their 16th consecutive appearance in the Women's College World Series, finishing tied for fourth with a 2-2 mark. The annual rite: win a bunch of games, win a regional, go to the World Series and try to win. It's not easy, but Candrea makes it seem so.
Arizona Coach Mike Candrea
Despite continuing his service as coach of the USA Softball team, Candrea turned in another stellar performance in 2003, earning Pac-10 coach of the Year honors in the process - his fourth consecutive. He took a team led by a freshman pitcher who helped dominate league action, and led the team to a conference championship. Arizona hit the 50-victory plateau for the 14th time in his tenure. He closed 2003 with an overall record of 982-191, a winning percentage of .837 - No. 2 all time and tops among active Division I coaches. He needs eight victories to reach 1,000.
Arizona led the nation with a .976 fielding percentage, led the nation with a .889 winning percentage and was second in total victories, was second nationally with a .329 team batting average, was second in scoring at 6.11 runs per game and finished 25th in team earned run average. Candrea would trade them all for being the victor on the final day of the season.
Candrea has produced 43 first-team All-Americans, the most in Division I. That suggests excellent recruiting practices but also underscores his coaching prowess. Five times he has coached a player to the Honda Softball Award as national player of the year. In 2003, his shortstop, Lovie Jung, was a finalist for the honor.
Three times he has been named National coach of the Year (NFCA 1994, 1996, 1997). He was elected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996.
He led Arizona to Women's College World Series titles six times - 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2001 - twice winning back-to-back NCAA championships.
He came close to leading UA all the way again in 2003. Arizona was two outs away from playing in the title game when a key error allowed the tying run to score in the seventh inning, and UA subsequently lost to California, 2-1, in 12 innings, forcing a second semifinal. UA lost that game, 4-1.
Candrea Overall: 982-191 Pac-10 Record: 297-73 NCAA Games: 95-26 WCWS Games: 45-20 NCAA Regionals: 50-6 NCAA Titles: 6 Pac-10 Titles: 7 Pac-10 Coach of year: 7During the next year until the Olympics are over in August 2004, assistant coach Larry Ray will act as interim co-head coach, with assistant Nancy Evans serving as interim associate head coach. Candrea will work with the Arizona program but will direct numerous camps and playing tours with the USA Team that will keep him away for various periods.
Senior shortstop Lovie Jung, freshman pitcher Alicia Hollowell and freshman outfielder Autumn Champion earned NFCA first-team All-America honors in 2003, with sophomore outfielder Courtney Fossatti named to the second-team. Jung was an at-large selection. The Cats' three-hole hitter, she led the team in batting, runs, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in, walks and slugging percentage. She was seventh nationally in hitting at .461, led the nation with 79 RBI and tied for the Division I home run lead with 25. Hollowell set an Arizona record with a 40-5 pitching record and 394 strikeouts in a yeoman season performance. She was 10th nationally in earned run average and led the country with her victories and .889 winning percentage. Champion was UA's leadoff specialist and the hitting leader most of the year. She finished with an average of .434, just shy of the UA's all-time top 10. She led the team and was fourth nationally with 89 hits, four shy of Arizona's storied top 10. She led the team with 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts. Fossatti was arguably the club's best defensive outfielder -- she threw out six runners-- and hit .327 in the set-up spot as the No. 2 hitter. She scored 44 runs, drove in 23 and tied for second on the club with seven sacrifice hits.
Arizona placed five players on the 2003 All-Pacific-Region team. Pitcher Alicia Hollowell, outfielder Autumn Champion and outfielder Courtney Fossatti earned first-team honors, while shortstop Lovie Jung and designated player Wendy Allen were named to the second team.
Five Wildcats earned All-Pac-10 honors in 2003, plus coach Mike Candrea earned Coach of the Year Honors. Freshman Alicia Hollowell was named the league's Newcomer of the Year and a first-team pick, joined by shortstop Lovie Jung, and outfielder Autumn Champion. Outfielder Courtney Fossatti and catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest earned second-team honors. Wildcats earning honorable mention included designated player/pitcher Wendy Allen, third baseman Lisha Ribellia, third baseman Jackie Coburn and outfielder Crystal Farley. Hollowell was Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week five times during the year, a program best. Jung won Player of the Week honors twice, with Coburn earning the honor the final week of the season. Candrea was a three-time repeat selection, sharing the honor in 2001 and winning the honor outright in 2002 and 2003.
All NCAA Region I
Lovie Jung was named Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Region 1 playoffs in Tucson, helping UA to a 4-0 record and its 16th consecutive Regional championship. She was joined on the All-Region team by pitcher Alicia Hollowell, catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest and outfielder Autumn Champion. Vandergeest drove in 11 runs in the Cats' four game, Jung collected nine hits in 12 at-bats, plus scored eight times and stole three bases, and Champion had seven hits in Arizona's victories over Colorado State (11-1, five innings), Minnesota (4-2), Texas A&M (3-0) and Texas A&M (10-5) in the title game. Hollowell won all four games for the Cats and broke former star Nancy Evans' single-season pitching victories total of 36 in the process. Hollowell and Jung later earned all-tourney honors in Oklahoma City.
Pac-10 Outshines Parity
Once again the Pac-10 showed it is the nation's premier softball conference. Not only did four teams advance to the WCWS - Arizona, UCLA, California and Washington - all eight teams participated in the NCAA playoffs for the third year (also 1999 and 2000). All eight teams were ranked at times during the season. And, of course, Pac-10 teams faced each other in the national title game. The victory by UCLA gave it its ninth NCAA title. Arizona is next at six. UCLA or Arizona has won 15 of the 22 NCAA titles since softball became at Division I championships sport in 1982. Arizona or UCLA has played in the title game a combined 26 times with one or the other in the final mix in all but the 1982 and 1986 Series.
Final Pac-10 Standings
Pac-10 Overall Postseason 1. Arizona 19-2 56-7 NCAA Regional title, WCWS 2. UCLA 17-4 54-7 NCAA Regional title, WCWS title 3. California 10-11 49-20 NCAA Regional title, WCWS Oregon 10-11 35-19 NCAA Regional 5. Washington 9-12 47-16 NCAA Regional title, WCWS 6. Stanford 7-14 41-26 NCAA Regional Arizona State 7-14 32-25 NCAA Regional 8. Oregon State 5-16 36-31 NCAA Regional
Arizona's Record in NCAA Play
The Cats were 6-2 in NCAA play in 2003. Not bad, just not good enough. Arizona has a 95-26 overall record in NCAA Tournament games. The Cats are 50-6 in Regional action and 45-20 in WCWS action. Arizona has the nation's longest active WCWS appearance streak - 16 years. The Cats' 17-year string of NCAA appearances is third nationally behind Fresno State's 22 and California's 18 straight years in the playoffs. *Arizona was 33-5 in the regular season against teams selected for the NCAA tournament.
The Teams That Beat Arizona
UA Arizona was 22-6 against ranked teams in 2003. The six losses: No. 12 Texas won 2-1 in February; No. 9 Cal State Fullerton won 15-3 in the worst loss in UA history March 22; No. 16 Stanford won 4-3 in April; No. 8 Washington won 7-1 in May; and No. 9 California did the deed in the two-game sweep at the World Series, 2-1 and 4-1 on May 25. Arizona's other loss in 2003 was to Oklahoma State, 1-0, in February. Oklahoma State made the NCAA tournament, too.
At the WCWS
Arizona and most teams struggled to score runs in Oklahoma City this year. Home runs were relatively prevalent - more than a dozen - but UA didn't get a round-tripper at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The Cats' first-round game against Alabama was a one-run affair, a 3-2 victory over No. 16 Alabama. Its second-round game against familiar foe Washington also was a one-run game - a 2-1 UA victory. Alicia Hollowell threw two- and four-hitters in those games. She held California to seven hits in the third-round loss, 2-1, and Cal touched her up for more in the 4-1 elimination game, gathering eight hits including telling home runs by Kaleo Eldredge (her first of the year) and slugger Veronica Nelson. UA was held to 21 hits and a .191 batting average in Oklahoma City, with Lovie Jung (.417) and Crystal Farley (.364) doing most of the damage. Seven runs in four games were definitely unlike the Cats' 6.1 runs per game all year, a figure that rated second nationally. Hitting in the Series is all about timing, mostly. UA won the title in 2001 with a .146 average in its Series games, but came up with the key knocks when it had to. Jung and Hollowell each was named to the All-Women's College World Series team.
Arizona Softball Attendance
Arizona set a single-game attendance record with a crowd of 3,227 at its Pac-10 title clinching victory over UCLA on May 9. That match has drawn the top three crowds in UA history - a total of 9,242 spectators for 2001 (3,004), 2002 (3,161) and in 2003. The 3,227 figure was the best regular- or post-season college softball crowd in the nation in 2003 until the World Series. The Cats drew a total of 35,711 fans in its 23 home dates, an average of 1,553. Arizona had 18 crowds in excess of 1,000 and five of more than 2,000 in 2003. Arizona has been the leader in total softball attendance four of the past 10 seasons (2003 national figures not yet available)...
**No-hitters ...Freshman pitcher Alicia Hollowell threw no-hitters against Wisconsin and Oregon State (5 innings). She threw eight one-hitters, too. She earned NFCA National Player of the Week honors after she one-hit Washington, one-hit No. 1 UCLA and won over the Bruins with a five-hitter when Arizona took over the top spot in the rankings in early April...
**Sitting Them Down ...Hollowell needed 18 strikeouts to pass Jennie Finch's single-season record when she arrived in Oklahoma City. She struck out 13 in each of the first two games against Alabama and Washington and blew past the record... Hollowell also tossed 22 shutouts in 2003, tying the school record set in 1992 by Debby Day... Her career high in strikeouts came against UNLV in a two-hitter....
**Driving Them Home ...Mackenzie Vandergeest drove in 11 runs in NCAA Region 1 play to earn all-region honors. But, a week earlier Jackie Coburn drove in 11 runs in one game to establish an Arizona record and tie an NCAA mark. Coburn's grand slam in the bottom of the seventh ended a marathon 21-17 victory over Washington. She hit two homers in the game...
**Homers ...Arizona finished with 70 home runs... Thirteen of them were grand slams - six by Lovie Jung, three by Mackenzie Vandergeest, two by Jackie Coburn and one each by Wendy Allen and Courtney Fossatti... The Cats led an inning off with a home run on 15 occasions... The 70 homers are the sixth most by an Arizona club...
**Stolen Bases ...Arizona stole 43 bases in 55 attempts, a decent success rate (78%) but only .68 per game. The best per-game rate (1.96) was by the 1992 Cats, who stole 119 bases in 65 games. The club with the most stolen bases, the 1998 Cats with 136 in 149 attempts, managed 1.91 per game... The lowest per-game rate was Candrea's first club with 11 stolen bases in 41 games.
**Injuries ...Sophomore rightfielder Courtney Fossatti was scheduled to undergo ankle surgery in June. Candrea said he anticipates that she likely would redshirt the 2004 season while on the mend... Junior utility player Wendy Allen also was scheduled for June wrist surgery but is expected to be ready when fall practice starts.
**Nice Decade ...Arizona has a record of 232-31 in the 2000s, giving it a pretty nice start in the decade...
**Base Hits ...Autumn Champion's 89 hits: all singles. The hits total was a record for an Arizona freshman... Champion had a 27-game hitting streak from Feb. 9 to March 30, a span during which she collected 47 hits and batted .511 hitting... The streak was the second-longest in Arizona history behind fellow leadoff hitter Amy Chellevold's 30-game streak as an All-America junior in 1994...
**Crunch Time ...Sophomore centerfielder Crystal Farley did a fine job of hitting all year - fourth-best average on the team at .356. But she stepped it up and chipped in a .478 mark in UA's six NCAA games, with 11 hits. She hit ninth most of the year, where Candrea likes a lefty slapper, but it wouldn't be surprising to see her move up next year...
**Good Help ...Junior transfer Wendy Allen was plagued by a wrist problem and could not pitch as much as hoped for in 2003, but she turned in a solid year at the plate, hitting .324 with 17 extra-base hits and 28 RBI. She contributed a 12-2 mark in the circle including a 2-1 record in league contests... UA's 2003 role players all have a shot at greater things in 2004. Candace Abrams (.300), Allyson Von Liechtenstein (.391), Shelly Schultz (.270), Erin Palomarez (.245) and Leslie Wolfe (3-0 pitching) will compete for day-to-day duties. Palomarez and Schultz platooned at first base much of the year. Abrams was a top pinch hitter and Von Liechetenstein was the reserve outfielder and top pinch runner. Palomarez will be a senior, Abrams and Von Liechtenstein will be juniors and Schultz and Wolfe return for their sophomore seasons in 2004....
**Big Crowds ...Arizona enjoyed five crowds that hit the Top 30 list for the 11 seasons the team has been playing in Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium. The UCLA game May 9 is No. 1 at 3,227. The two Arizona State games April 18 and April 19 drew 2,287 and 2,811 fans, the latter checking in at No. 6. California drew 2,471 fans on April 12 and Stanford drew 2,237 fans on April 11.