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Arizona Two Wins from National Championship
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/05/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Promise Ring: Signing a National Letter of Intent with Mike Candrea and The University of Arizona has its benefits for a high school softball prospect.  One of which is the guarantee of a national championship.  Since 1991, last year’s 2005 senior class (Crystal Farley, Alyson VonLiechtenstein, Jackie Coburn and Courtney Fossatti) was the first and only group of four-year players to leave UA without a national championship.  Consequently if the Wildcats fail to capture the title this year, this year’s senior class would be the second to leave without a ring.

 

Bringing Facts to Faulty Misconceptions: Much has been made of UCLA’s “dominance” of its apparently subordinate counterparts, which has fooled even the “experts” of college softball.  While UCLA’s senior class has a lot to be proud of, something must be said disclaim these impressions, if nothing else to avoid misleading college softball fans around the country.

 

Since 1991:

 

Arizona

UCLA

Other Pac-10

Non-Pac-10

National Championships

6

4*

1

3

Title Game Appearances

11

10*

5

5

*UCLA’s participation in the 1995 WCWS was vacated by the NCAA Committee on infractions.

 

One last note that speaks to the parity of NCAA Softball in the new millennium...  Since 2000, five different teams have won six championships, which doesn’t speak much to a monopoly in Westwood.

 

Second in the Conference, First in the Country: Of Arizona’s six national championships, two (1993 & 1996) came in years that Arizona finished second in the Pac-10 one year removed from sitting atop the Conference of Champions.  After winning the 2005 Pac-10 title and finishing runner up in this year’s Conference standings, the Wildcats look to repeat history.  (Note: UA finished fourth in the Pac-10 before winning the 1991 NCAA title.)

 

Arizona’s Record in the WCWS...

            Overall: 49-23

            When the Wildcats score at least one run: 49-4

            In shutout games: 27-19

            When Alicia Hollowell pitches (Since 2003): 6-5

            When Alicia Hollowell starts (Since 2003): 6-4

            Taryne Mowatt has never pitched in the WCWS

 

Arizona’s Record this year...

            Overall: 52-11

            When Alicia Hollowell starts: 30-6

            When Taryne Mowatt starts: 20-4

            When Arizona pitcher strikes out 10+: 35-4

            When opposing pitcher strikes out 10+: 5-4

            When Arizona homers: 29-3

            When Arizona leads at any time during the game: 50-2

            In one-run games: 7-7

            On TV: 7-3

 

Granted, that was February... but in Arizona’s only meeting with Northwestern all year, Alicia Hollowell no-hit the purple-clad Wildcats with a dominating 16-strikeout performance that was shortened to six innings due to run rule.  Hollowell’s only blemish in the box score was one base on balls, which incidentally, came on a 3-2 pitch.  UA freshman Sam Banister, who has yet to start in the WCWS, went 2-for-2 with two doubles, two runs scored and two RBI.  That game was on Feb. 10 in Tempe, Ariz., as part of the Kajikawa Classic.  Please refer to Page 49 of Arizona’s WCWS Guide for a box score.

 

A Fresher Hollowell is Bad News for Opponents: Alicia Hollowell holds nearly every pitching record at UA, including three of the top four spots for Innings Pitched in a Season.  This year however, is Hollowell’s only campaign without a mark in the top 10. 

 

Entering 2006, Hollowell averaged 290 innings pitched per year, yet despite never reaching the Championship Series, Hollowell has pitched 51 fewer innings than that average.

 

Note: Hollowell will enter the top 10 list for Innings Pitched in a Season with, should she toss 4.2 innings in the coming days.  She currently has 238.1 IP this year, and needs to get to 243.0 to catch Becky Lemke.

 

Top four spots: During UA’s 2-0 Texas, Alicia Hollowell passed Jennie Finch’s 2002 strikeout total to claim the top four places in strikeouts in a season for Arizona.  See page 10 of WCWS guide for more info.

 

Stealing the Show: Arizona is a perfect 9-for-9 when stealing bases in this WCWS, while catcher Callista Balko has limited opponents to only 1 SB in 3 attempts.

 

Approaching WCWS Records: UA’s four SB versus Texas tie a single game WCWS record, and Caitlin Lowe’s three SB during the entire series put her one swiped bag away from tying Wildcat outfielder Alison Johnsen’s four SB in 1996.  Lowe’s four runs scored place her two away from tying a trio of former WCWS greats, including Johnsen and ESPN analyst Lisa Fernandez’s six runs scored.

 

Racking up the RBI: Last year, Kristie Fox had 1 RBI and 12 walks in the postseason.  This postseason, she has 16 RBI and 6 walks.  This should come as no surprise, as Arizona has more big bats “protecting” her.  Additionally, in Game 1 vs. Oregon State, Fox set a new career high with 65 RBI after leading the nation with 64 in 2005.

 

Extra Bases and Homers: Some supporting evidence to that last note, in 2005 Arizona had 2 players with more than five home runs (Current undergrad asst. coach Jackie Coburn 10, Kristie Fox 9).  This year, UA has 5 players with more than 5 bombs (Kristie Fox 15, Callista Balko 13, Chelsie Mesa 9, Laine Roth 7, Jenae Leles 7).

 

If you’re not into the home runs, perhaps extra-base hits are more telling.  In 2005, Arizona had 3 players with 13 or more extra-base hits: Kristie Fox (22), Jackie Coburn (16) and Callista Balko (16).  In 2006, UA has 6 Chelsie Mesa (26), Kristie Fox (24), Callista Balko (19), Jenae Leles (16), Caitlin Lowe (14), Laine Roth (13).  Additionally, Arizona’s team SLG% has gone from .399 in 2005 to .468 in 2006.

 

Then You Know They’re Due: Arizona is homerless in its last 48.1 innings at the plate over the last two years at the WCWS.  Moreover, UA is in the midst of its longest homerless drought of 2006 (4 games).

 

What a Difference a Year Makes! On paper, it’s easy to see why the 2006 Wildcats have gone so much farther than the 2005 squad that featured eight of the same players.

 

 

Avg.

OB%

SLG%

HR

Runs/G

FLD%

ERA

K:BB

2005

.297

.378

.399

33

4.6

.975

1.12

7.4

2006

.310

.393

.468

60

5.3

.978

1.13

9.4

Diff.

+.013

+.015

+.067

+27

+0.7

+.003

+0.01

+2.0

 

 

Playing like a Champion: Here are a few breakdowns of senior Autumn Champion’s batting stats over several recent timeframes...

 

Tucson Regional:

3-for-9

.300

Tucson Super Regional:

9-for-11

.818

At the WCWS:

4-for-13

.308

Last seven games:

13-for-24

.542

Last 20 games (UA 18-2):

31-for-67

.463

 

Hitless: Before Callista Balko’s game-winning hit versus Texas, she was 0-for-9 with 9 strikeouts against Cat Osterman.

 

Here are some Wildcats who may prove unlikely heroes today.  Freshmen Jenae Leles (1-for-13) stepped up with a two-out, two RBI single in the first inning of UA’s victory over Tennessee, while junior transfer Chelsie Mesa (0-for-13) remains mired in a slump.

 

(Note: Mesa won a pair of NJCAA national championships while at Phoenix College.  On Saturday, Mesa mused “I am this team’s lucky charm.  I’ve won the two national championships, and the team is staying on Floor 14 (her jersey number).”

 

New record holders: Callista Balko, who has caught every pitch of every inning this year, is Arizona’s new record holder for putouts in a season with 665.  The NCAA does not keep records on putouts, but after catching for two pitchers who hold two of the top 10 single season strikeout marks at Arizona, Balko would undoubtedly find herself near the top of the list. 

 

Yes, More Balko Praise: Arizona’s opponents have not had the same success stealing bases, due in large part to UA catcher Callista Balko.  The Tucson native has thrown out 2 of the 3 potential base stealers at the WCWS.

 

Additionally, Balko has only 2 passed balls in 63 games behind the dish this year, after having 2 in 33 contests in 2005.  She has also saved pitchers from giving up passed balls.  In 2005 UA pitchers hurled 26 WP (one every 15 innings)... this year, they have had only 15 (one every 28 innings).

 

Best Outfield in the Country: Arizona’s defense, which entered the week atop the Pac-10, has been solid all year.  That is due in no small part to UA’s swift-footed and intuitive outfielders.  Caitlin Lowe, who is errorless in 181 career games (134 career fielding attempts), leads the bunch, which has committed only two errors in the grassy area all year.  The UA outfielders have combined for a .984 fielding percentage (124-of-126 chances).

 

Additionally, UA outfielders are capable at tracking down hits before they go for extra bases.  The Wildcats have given up only 15 doubles and 0 triples all year.

 

Multi-hit games (2006):

Number of Hits

2

3

4

Total

Caitlin Lowe

21

4

1

26

Autumn Champion

14

4

4

22

Kristie Fox

15

4

2

21

Chelsie Mesa

11

2

1

14

Callista Balko

11

1

0

12

Laine Roth

10

1

0

11

Adrienne Acton

8

1

0

9

Jenae Leles

4

3

0

7

Taryne Mowatt

5

0

1

6

Sam Banister

5

0

0

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