Feb. 17, 2010
After going 6-0 in the season-opening Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona will return home to host nationally-ranked Missouri for a three-game set that runs from Saturday until Sunday.
The Cats will play Missouri, who advanced to the Women's College World Series last season after defeating Pac-10 champion UCLA in the Super Regional round.
Missouri: The No. 6/5 Tigers took two of three from then-No. 2 ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, run-ruling the Crimson Tide in the final game. Sophomore pitcher Chelsea Thomas (2-0) picked up both wins, allowing a total of four hits and striking out 23 in 12 innings pitched. Kristin Nottelmann (0-1) was the pitcher of record in the second game, an Alabama 9-0 victory in five innings. Jana Hainey came in in relief and held Bama to three hits in 2.1 innings.
Last Time Out
Arizona started off the season on a hot streak, taking all six games at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.
Sarah Akamine twirled her first career no-hitter in the first game of the season against Western Michigan, a 13-0 five-inning victory. Arizona drew 14 walks in the game.
Brittany Lastrapes, Stacie Chambers and Baillie Kirker each hit a second-inning home run and Kenzie Fowler limited Purdue to one hit in her college debut as Arizona defeated the Boilermakers 10-0 in five innings.
Lastrapes' seventh-inning two-run single on a full count with two outs gave the Cats a walk-off win over Northwestern, 4-3. Fowler struck out 18 on the day.
Brigette Del Ponte tallied four RBI and Arizona used a five-run fifth to pull away from North Dakota State, 6-0. Akamine allowed four hits.
UA put up six first-inning runs and added some needed insurance late as they defeated Nevada 10-5. Fowler picked up the win in relief as the Cats scattered 16 hits.
It's Been a While Since...
The last time Arizona hosted a ranked non-conference opponent in the regular season was all the way back on March 1, 2008, when the Wildcats played the No. 24 Virginia Tech Hokies as part of the Wildcat Invitational. In that game, UA hurler Taryne Mowatt (20) and VT ace Angela Tincher (21) tossed an NCAA-record 41 total strikeouts in Arizona's 4-3 12-inning victory in front of 2,710 in attendance. But that was just one game. The last time the Cats hosted a three-game set with a ranked non-conference opponent in the regular season was on Feb. 23-25, 2007, when No. 2 Texas A&M came to Tucson. Arizona won that series, 2-1.
Arizona blasted 27 hits in its last two games of the Kajikawa Classic including a season-high 16 against Nevada. It gave the club 50 safeties for the year, an average of 8+ per game. UA batters reached base 93 times in the six games, thanks to 40 bases on balls and three hit batters, for a team .474 on-base percentage out of the gate.
Off and Running
UA has scored 51 runs in its six games, an average of 8.5 per contest. Leadoff hitter Brittany Lastrapes and slugger Bailie Kirker lead the way with seven apiece, but 14 Cats have scored this year thanks to widespread use of the bench by Coach Mike Candrea. Nine of Arizona's top 10 hitters have all tallied at least three RBI.
Booting the Ball
The Cats kicked it around some in Tempe last week, with five errors to start the year with a .968 fielding percentage, below its norm in the program's 28-year Division I history. It's not a horrible percentage, and in fact two of the Cats' national title squads were near that efficiency (1994 team had .968, 1993 team had .958) but UA has historically been more of a .975 fielding club since the turn of the century.
Share the Wealth
Already through six contests, Arizona has had 13 instances where a Wildcat has had a multiple-RBI game. Nearly half of those fall in the three-RBI category, but four freshman (Matte Haack, Brigette Del Ponte, Becca Tikey and Baillie Kirker) have their names on this list that will run through the season. Haack actually leads the team with its only five-RBI output thus far. Brittany Lastrapes has three multiple-RBI games, including the two that turned the tide against Northwestern, and Lini Koria has two - including her four against Fullerton that came off one swing of the bat.
Cashing in in the Clutch
Arizona has 16 two-out RBI through six games, nine more than the total number of RBI they have allowed thus far. In fact, UA has only allowed nine runs all season. Freshman Matte Haack leads the team with four two-out RBI, all coming on a grand slam. Two of Brittany Lastrapes' three two-out ribbies came on the final play of the game against Northwestern, a 4-3 walk-off win.
When the Cats were trailing after six innings in 2009, they touted a 1-13 record. With the seventh-inning comeback win against Northwestern, when the Cats entered the frame down by two, they're off to a 1-0 start. Though it may be too early to tell, this may be a sign of resiliency from an Arizona team that hasn't seen much of it in the recent past.
The Long Ball
Coming off the 2009 campaign in which the Wildcats broke the NCAA record for home runs in a single season, Arizona hit six home runs at the Kajikawa Classic. That number is two times more than UA had through six games last season. Yes, that's correct, Arizona only hit three home runs in their first six games en route to the all-time home run crown. In fact, the 2009 team didn't even hit their sixth long ball until the ninth game of the season against Hofstra.
The UA newbies currently hold the home run lead, with three between Baillie Kirker (2) and Matte Haack (1). Juniors Stacie Chambers and Brittany Lastrapes have one apiece, and Lini Koria has the lone sophomore tally. Senior K'Lee Arredondo doesn't have much help from any other upperclassman bats.
Home, Sweet Home
Through 17 seasons at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, Arizona has a home record of 492-42 and a remarkable 182-27 mark in Pac-10 games. The winning attracts crowds. The Cats averaged 2,458 last year, a national best, and an Arizona record by a large margin. The Cats have drawn 30 crowds of 2,400 or more over the year and did it consistently a year ago including the No. 6 crowd in history, a 2,895 group for the April 18 California game. This year's team appears capable of establishing its own appeal to keep the attraction of UA softball a winning ticket.