Feb. 4, 2009
Cats Open up Season at the Kajikawa Classic
Up Next: The No. 7 Arizona Wildcats open up their 2009 campaign at the Kajikawa Classic up the I-10 in Tempe. UA is looking to begin their season on a winning note, after an 0-3 start in the same tournament one year ago. The Cats will take on five squads, including nationally ranked Northwestern and Nevada -teams that contributed to Arizona's slow start last season.
Friday, February 6 vs. Kansas, 4:30 p.m. (Tempe Sports Complex)
vs. UTEP, 7 p.m. (Tempe Sports Complex)
Saturday, February 7 vs. Northwestern, 10 a.m. (Farrington Stadium, ASU)
vs. Nevada, 12:30 p.m. (Farrington Stadium, ASU)
Sunday, February 8 vs. UC Santa Barbara, 1 p.m. (Tempe Sports Complex)
The Tempe Sports Complex is on the corner of Warner Rd. and Hardy Dr. in Tempe.
Defensive Positioning: (not a depth chart)
LF - Brittany Lastrapes
CF - Lauren Schutzler
3B - Jenae Leles
SS - K'Lee Arredondo
Noting the Jayhawks: Kansas returns senior 3B Val Chapple, who led the team with 40 runs and 37 RBI in 2008, along with seven other returning starters. Among them is senior pitcher Valerie George, a Tucson native, who had a team low 1.96 ERA accompanied by 185 strikeouts.
Noting the Miners: UTEP went 1-1 against Arizona last season, defeating and then falling to the Cats in the doubleheader in Texas. Top hitter Camilla Carrera batted a team leading .373 average and returns for her sophomore season. Stacie Townsend also picked up 12 wins in the circle in 2008, one against UA.
Noting the NU Wildcats: Northwestern is set in the circle with reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Lauren Delaney. The junior accumulated an 37-11 record with a 1.74 ERA and 461 strikeouts in 2008. Senior catcher Erin Dyer and sophomore first baseman Michelle Batts each hit more than 12 home runs and 40 RBI.
Noting the Wolf Pack: Nevada returns second team All-American Noelle Micka and seven All-WAC selections. The sophomore Micka, who played high school ball with Arizona's Kristen Arriola, led the team with a .399 average, while knocking in 41 runs, hitting 18 doubles and pounding out 7 home runs in 2008. Returning junior pitcher Katie Holverson went 22-6 with a 2.26 ERA in '08.
Noting the Gauchos: UCSB returns senior Tiffany Wright, who batted .350 with 12 home runs, 15 doubles and 40 RBI. The Gauchos also return two starters who knocked in 23 or more runs. In the circle, senior Tami Weston had the best '08 campaign with a 3.55 ERA and an 11-6 record.
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 KTUC 1400 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 1,131-228-2 (.832) 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.
Who's No. 1?: Perhaps the biggest question entering the 2009 season is who will be the Arizona ace? Simply put, there is no set No. 1. Sophomore Lindsey Sisk (10-3, 1.62 ERA in '08) and junior Sarah Akamine (2-1, 1.72 ERA in '08) are the top two contenders heading into the first game. Sisk was the definite No. 2 behind Taryne Mowatt last season, and filled in solidly when needed. She also broke Mowatt's freshman year win record and led the team in ERA. Akamine emerged as a solid backup during Pac-10 season when she was called upon to shut down Arizona State and UCLA in consecutive weeks. Both saw limited action in the NCAA Regional round. We'll know around 4 p.m. on Friday who'll get the rock to start the season.
Plenty of Ammunition: Arizona hit 94 home runs last season -- the third-highest team total in history -- with '09 returners accounting for 78 of them. Jenae Leles (17), Stacie Chambers (15), Laine Roth (15) and Sam Banister (10) each hit their fair share of long balls. The team also led the nation in home runs per game. Toss in California's all-time high school career home run leader in Lini Koria, who led the team in jacks in the fall, and UA is stacked for another run to the top of the national charts. Six of Arizona's top seven hitters from last season will return in '09.
You Know It's Over When: In the last four seasons, UA has compiled a 127-2 record when leading after five innings, and a 122-1 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 2-44 when trailing in the final frame.
The Rankings: Arizona, after topping the preseason polls last season, sits 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.
Arizona Softball in Historical Perspective: Arizona began play in 1974 and sports an all-time record of 1,487-430-2. 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 1,313-323-2. 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.
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.
Who's In, Who's Out: Returners: Sarah Akamine (Jr.), K'Lee Arredondo (Sr.), Sam Banister (Sr.), Stacie Chambers (Jr.), Corinna Gonzalez (So.), Victoria Kemp (So.), Brittany Lastrapes (So.), Jenae Leles (Sr.), Jill Malina (Sr.), Laine Roth (Sr.), Lauren Schutzler (So.), Lindsey Sisk (So.). Newcomers: Kristen Arriola (Fr.), Alicia Banks (Fr.), Karissa Buchanan (Fr.), Lini Koria (Fr.), Jennifer Martinez (Sr.), Mandy Monge (Sr.), Ashley Ralston-Alvarez (Jr.). Who's Out: Adrienne Acton, Callista Balko, Cyndi Duran, Jessica McNamara, Taryne Mowatt, Danielle Rodriguez.
2009 Catnips: Sarah Akamine - Should see significant playing time in the circle, possible No. 1 pitcher; K'Lee Arredondo - Arizona's sure-handed shortstop led the team in doubles last season (19). The total was good enough for third on the UA single-season list. Kristen Arriola - Could see time at second base, a freshman with a high upside and potential; Sam Banister - Will most likely platoon at first base after putting up career numbers in '08, including 10 home runs; Alicia Banks - Sierra Vista, Ariz. native swings a big stick and could be called upon as a situational hitter; Karissa Buchanan - Tucson native who can make her presence felt with her slap-hitting ability, and should see significant playing time in right field; Stacie Chambers - Will most likely do the catching this season, after leading the team in RBI last season (49) as the DP and hitting the most HRs (15) for a newcomer since Lovie Jung; Corinna Gonzalez - The first player from Colorado in the Candrea era smacked a three-run jack in her third career at-bat and could be called upon as a situational hitter; Victoria Kemp - Should see significant time at second base, after owning the position with no errors in the first half of '08; Lini Koria - California's high school all-time HR leader speaks for itself. This freshman could potentially see time as catcher or DP; Brittany Lastrapes - One of two returning All-Americans, she was named to the Top 50 watch list for Player of the Year. Every one of her '08 starts came in left field; Jenae Leles - One of the most feared hitters in softball, Leles needs seven HRs to crack the UA all-time top-10. She led the team in jacks last season with 17; Jill Malina - Could see playing time in right field, and needs one more appearance to mark 100 games in her career; Jennifer Martinez - Redshirt senior who has plenty of experience, but has a chance to earn her stripes in cardinal and navy. Will most likely be called on as a relief pitcher; Mandy Monge - This senior transfer is the first player from Massachusetts in the Candrea era, and could see time behind the plate in '09; Ashley Ralston-Alvarez - A junior transfer from nearby Pima Community College was named to the All-ACCAC third team as a pitcher, and was an NJCAA Academic All-America; Laine Roth - Arizona's other returning All-American posted career numbers in '08, and will most likely platoon at first base after a strong defensive campaign; Lauren Schutzler - Finished second on the team in batting average last year, and will use her speed to nab infield singles. Look for her to cover plenty of ground in center field; Lindsey Sisk - Should see significant playing time in the circle, possible No. 1 pitcher.