July 12, 2004
The Arizona softball team saw its stellar season come to an early end as it was eliminated from the Division 1 playoffs hosted in Tucson in May. The Wildcats finished the season with an overall record of 55-6 and won their eighth Conference Championship with a Pac-10 record of 17-3. Arizona now has more Pac-10 titles than any school since the league began Division I play in 1987.
With head coach Mike Candrea coaching the USA Softball team, assistant coach Larry Ray took the helm for the Cats, steering them through the record books en route to Arizona's stunning defeat in the playoffs. The 2004 squad, ranked steadily at No. 1 for nearly the entire season, was the first in 16 years to not qualify for the NCAA Women's College World Series.
? Arizona was ranked No. 1 for nine weeks in the USA Today/NFCA polls, No. 2 for five weeks, and No. 8 in the final season poll. UA has been steadily ranked since 1988.
? Arizona has won 50 or more games 11 years in a row and made its 18th consecutive NCAA appearance, posting a 2-2 record
? Arizona is also the winningest team in the history of the league in overall total victories (1007-180), overall winning percentage (.849), league victories (312-76), and league winning percentage (.804) in 18 years of league play
? Every four-year player who has enrolled at Arizona since 1988 has been part of at least one Pac-10 Championship club
Arizona Coach Larry Ray
In his first year as head coach at Arizona, Larry Ray posted a 55-6 record, setting the all-time Arizona record for the best start with a 34-0 mark through March 20. Ray has an overall record of 224-112, including five years (four of competition) as head coach at Florida from 1996-2000. Ray passed the 200-victory plateau earlier this year, a sparkling sum for just five years at the helm, giving him an annual average record of 45-22. Ray led the team to a No. 8 spot on UA's charts with a team fielding percentage of .974. He also utilized the Cats' speedy lineup to steal 129 bases, triple the number last year's squad posted.
Ray Overall: 224-112 Pac-10 record: 17-3 Postseason: 12-14 NCAA games: 4-6
Coach Nancy Evans
Associate head coach Nancy Evans helped lead UA to one of its best pitching years to date, in which UA pitchers posted 55 wins and six losses. All but one of Arizona's losses came by a margin of one run, the exception being the last loss of the season, a 5-0 shutout versus Louisiana-Lafayette. The Wildcats posted a team ERA of 1.03, No. 11 on the UA charts. UA pitching allowed 239 hits and 72 runs (59 earned) in 1,421 batters faced, which pales in comparison to the Cats' offense, which collected 546 hits and 375 runs (313 earned) against opposing pitchers. Arizona's pitchers also struck out 632 batters on the season and combined for 30 shutouts. Alicia Hollowell threw three no-hitters this year against Indiana, Missouri and Oregon State. Leslie Wolfe also threw her first career no-hitter against Dayton on Feb. 14. Alicia Hollowell also threw her first career perfect game, striking out 20 of 21 batters on March 6 versus Indiana.
Arizona Coach Mike Candrea
Arizona's mentor missed his 18th consecutive trip to post-season play. Eight times he has been named Pac-10 Coach or Co-Coach of the Year. He has led his teams to 16 consecutive Regional titles and thereby taken Arizona teams to the College World Series each year since 1988. He led UA to NCAA Championships six times (1991, '93, '94, '96, '97, '01) and his teams have won seven of the last 12 Pacific-10 Conference titles (1992, '94, '95, '97, '98, '01, '03) and finished second the other five years. Candrea is taking a partial leave of absence to coach the U.S. National Team in the Athens Olympics this summer. Three times he has been named National Coach of the Year (NFCA '94, '96, '97). In all, during his career he has won 17 conference, regional or national coaching honors. He was elected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996.
Overall Record: 982-191 Pac-10 Record: 297-73 NCAA Games Record: 95-26 NCAA Regionals: 50-6 College World Series: 45-20
Senior designated player Wendy Allen, sophomore pitcher Alicia Hollowell, sophomore outfielder Autumn Champion (at-large selection) and freshman outfielder Caitlin Lowe all earned NFCA first-team All-America honors in 2004. Arizona has had four or more first-team All-America selections five times in its history and has boasted multiple selections 15 other years.
Allen took over for Lovie Jung as Arizona's three-hole hitter, posting a batting average of .394, with 73 RBI and eight home runs. Throughout the season Allen rotated from designated player to first base to pitcher, maintaining a .990 fielding percentage. Allen led the team in doubles (16) and slugging percentage (.656). In the circle, Allen posted a perfect 9-0 record and an ERA of 1.24. In 62.1 innings pitched, she struck out 76, holding opposing batters to an ERA of .198. Because of her success on the field and in the classroom at UA, Allen earned a slew of seasonal and postseason honors, including:
? Academic All-District VIII ? First team Pac-10 All-academic ? CoSIDA Academic All-America second team ? First team All-America ? First team All-Pacific Region ? 2004 Pac-10 Conference Medal ? First team All-Pac-10 Conference ? NCAA All-Region 1 honors ? Pac-10 Player of the Week, Feb. 24
In her sophomore season as Arizona's starting pitcher, Hollowell once again re-wrote UA's record books. With an ERA of 0.79, Hollowell led Arizona's pitching staff with a record of 41-4. Last season she took the top spot on the UA's season strikeout chart with 394. This season she demolished her own record with a strikeout count of 508, third on the all-time NCAA chart behind Courtney Blades (S. Miss.) and Team USA's Cat Osterman (Texas). Hollowell now totes a career total of 902, which after just two seasons, puts her on a staggering pace to break the NCAA career record of 1,773. Because of her dominating performances on the field, Hollowell earned honors for Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week five times this year - Feb. 24, March 2, March 9, March 23 and May 18. She was also USA Softball National Player of the Week on March 22 after five victories at the Kia Klassic, and again on May 18 after three Pac-10 shutouts. Though she fell short of the award, Hollowell was one of three finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. However, she did earn Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year honors, adding to her Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year award she earned last season.
Champion, hitting in the two-spot, led Arizona's offense in batting average (.489), hits (85), on-base percentage (.531) and sacrifice bunts (9). The second half of UA's speedy leadoff tandem, Champion also stole 26 bases in 29 attempts, second behind leadoff hitter Caitlin Lowe. Champion's batting average of .489 moved her into the No. 4 spot on UA's charts. Champion was named Pac-10 Player of the Week on Feb. 17 and was among 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award.
Lowe, named Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, was the only Wildcat freshman to start all 61 games for Arizona. Hitting mainly as a slapper in the leadoff spot, the speedy Lowe hit a second-best .437 and led the team in runs scored (76), total bases (106), stolen bases (47), steal attempts (50), and at-bats (190) while maintaining a perfect fielding percentage in center. Along with teammates Hollowell and Champion, Lowe was one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. During the season she earned Pac-10 Player of the Week on May 4 and was named ASA Nation Player of the Week for April 12-18 after hitting .545 with five runs versus Cal and Stanford.
All-Pacific Region Honors
Arizona earned four of 12 spots on the 2004 All-Pacific-Region first team. Pitcher Alicia Hollowell and outfielder Autumn Champion earned the award for the second year in a row. Outfielder Caitlin Lowe received first-team honors, and designated player Wendy Allen moved up from last year's second-team nomination.
Alicia Hollowell was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and Caitlin Lowe earned Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year honors. Six Wildcat players earned All-Conference honors in 2004. Senior Wendy Allen, sophomores Hollowell and Autumn Champion and freshman Caitlin Lowe earned first-team nominations. Senior catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest was named to the second team. Sophomore Shelly Schultz and freshman shortstop Kristie Fox earned honorable mention. Arizona players earned nine Pac-10 Weekly awards this season, putting UA's total weekly honors at 91, 10 of which belong to Hollowell.
NCAA Region 1
Consecutive losses to Oklahoma (3-2) and Louisiana-Lafayette (5-0) effectively snapped Arizona's string of 16 consecutive WCWS appearances - the nation's longest active streak. Though UA was eliminated, seniors Wendy Allen and Mackenzie Vandergeest earned NCAA All-Region 1 honors.
Arizona's NCAA Record
The Cats were 2-2 in NCAA play in 2004, with wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Centenary, and losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and Oklahoma. UA's first-round NCAA record falls to 14-4, the two losses previous to 2004 coming in 1987 to Arizona State at Tempe, 4-3, and again to Arizona State in Tucson in 1990, 1-0. Arizona has a 97-28 overall record in NCAA tournament games. The Cats are 52-8 in Regional action and 45-20 in WCWS play. Arizona's 18-year string of NCAA appearances is third nationally behind Fresno State's 23 and California's 19 straight years in the playoffs. In 2004 Arizona was 12-4 against teams that went on to play in the WCWS.
Teams That Beat the Cats
UA was 27-6 against ranked teams in 2004 and 55-6 overall. The six losses came against No. 9 Washington on March 21 in the championship game of the Kia Klassic, No. 13 Oregon on April 25, No. 9 Stanford on May 2, No. 5 UCLA on May 14, No. 20 Oklahoma on May 22 and No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette on May 22.
Pac-10 Proves Its Worth
The Pac-10 proved from the get-go that it is the nation's top softball conference. In the NFCA/USA Softball preseason poll, seven of eight Pac-10 teams were among the top 25, with four in the top 10. In seven of 15 NFCA/USA polls, Arizona, UCLA and Cal were ranked in the top three in varying orders, and in seven polls all eight Pac-10 teams were ranked in the top 25. Except for Arizona State, all the schools in the conference participated in the NCAA tournament. Four moved on to play in the WCWS, and UCLA beat Cal in the championship game for its second national title in as many years.
Final Pac-10 Standings
Pac-10 Overall Postseason 1. Arizona 17-3 55-6 NCAA Regional 2. Cal 13-8 53-13 NCAA Regional title, WCWS Stanford 13-8 49-19 NCAA Regional title, WCWS 4. UCLA 12-8 47-9 NCAA Regional title, WCWS title 5. Washington 10-10 40-19 NCAA Regional title, WCWS 6. Oregon 10-11 42-21 NCAA Regional 7. Oregon State 4-17 44-28 NCAA Regional 8. Arizona State 3-17 33-31
Arizona Softball Attendance
Arizona drew a Rita Hillenbrand Stadium and school-record crowd of 3,541 to its exhibition game against the U.S. National Team in March. The Cats drew a total of 29,125 in 25 home dates for an average of 1,165. Including the U.S.A. game, attendance jumps to 32,666 for an average of 1,256.
2004 Wildcat Records & Notes
...Autumn Champion moved into the No. 4 spot on the UA single-season batting average chart with her team-leading mark of .489... Freshman Caitlin Lowe tied Laura Espinoza's 1994 average of .437 at No. 10 on the chart...
...Wendy Allen moved into a six-way tie at No. 7 on UA's chart for most doubles in a season with 16... She tied with Mackenzie Vandergeest in 2003, Leah O'Brien in 1994, Leah Braatz in 1995 and 1997, and Laura Espinoza in 1995...
...Caitlin Lowe broke into the No. 8 spot on the season runs chart with 76, knocking Jenny Dalton's 1994 mark of 74 off the list...Lowe also tied Alison McCutcheon at the No. 3 spot on the single-season stolen bases list with 47 in 50 tries...Also became the most recent 1.000 fielding percentage outfielder with no errors in 33 chances...
...Mackenzie Vandergeest moved to No. 3 on the season fielding list with a .999 fielding percentage, committing just one error in 676 chances...Vandergeest also tied for 10th on the same list with a .994 mark in 2002 and 2003...
...Thanks in large part to sophomore pitcher Alicia Hollowell's staggering strikeout tally, Vandergeest shattered her own single-season putouts record of 577 with this year's tally of 639. Her career putouts total of 1,812 tops UA's charts...
...Vandergeest's career numbers place her on several of UA's record charts: her home run total of 59 places fourth behind Jenny Dalton, her 248 career RBI also places fourth behind Laura Espinoza. Her 48 career doubles puts her at No. 8 behind Alison McCutcheon, and her 116 walks puts her in third place behind Leah Braatz. She also ranks fourth in career fielding percentage, with a .994 mark in 1,962 chances...
...Alicia Hollowell broke her own season victory record of 40-5 with her 41-4 mark this season, moving her to Nos. 1 and 2 on Arizona's charts... She also set a new single-season strikeout record with 508, breaking the record she set last year with 394... In just two years as the Wildcats' workhorse, she has compiled 902 strikeouts in 590.2 innings, No. 29 on the NCAA career list... With two years of eligibility left, makes the NCAA charts in victories (41 in '04, 81 career), winning percentage (.911), shutouts (24 in '04, 50 career) and strikeout ratio (12.2 per seven innings)... Hollowell also has five career no-hitters...
...Arizona's 2004 pitching staff broke UA's strikeouts-per-seven-innings record of 9.8 set by the 2001 squad... The 2004 Wildcat pitchers averaged 11 strikeouts per regulation game, with 632 total K's in 402.1 innings...
...The Cats' 129 stolen bases in 154 attempts give the team the second-biggest total in UA history...
...Arizona tossed four no-hitters this year. Leslie Wolfe got it started with a five-inning performance in a 19-0 victory over Dayton on Feb. 14. Hollowell tossed a seven-inning perfect game against Indiana (6-0) on March 6, then came back a week later and threw a seven-inning no-hitter against Missouri (5-0). Hollowell (4 innings) and Wendy Allen (1 inning) combined for the fourth no-no against Oregon State on April 23. The first three were in Tucson and the last was in Corvallis. Hollowell and Wolfe combined for one-hitters against Mississippi, New Mexico, Boston and Missouri, and Hollowell had seven-inning one-hitters against Texas, Oklahoma State, and twice against Louisiana-Lafayette...
...The Cats opened the year with a school-record 34-game winning streak, then subsequently added another winning streak of 11 games before Pac-10 play cut Arizona's streaks to three games or shorter...
...Arizona played 16 games (16-0) shortened by the eight-run mercy rule, and played three extra-inning games. The Cats beat California 2-0 and 3-2 in eight-inning games, and lost to Oregon (1-0) in another eight-inning contest...