Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
No. 1 Wildcat Softball Heads to Tempe
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 22, 2004
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April 5, 2004

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This Week

The Arizona softball team travels north to Tempe this week to take on in-state rival Arizona State on Friday, April 9th at 7 p.m. at ASU's Farrington Stadium. The Cats and Devils will face off a second time in a KAZ-TV televised game on Saturday, April 10th at 7 p.m. The Wildcats will enter the second week of Pac-10 play with a 38-1 overall record and a conference mark of 2-0, after canceling a game versus Washington and notching two wins over No. 2 UCLA last weekend. The Sun Devils head into the weekend with a 30-16 overall mark and winless in Pac-10 play, after being rained out versus UCLA and falling twice to No. 7 Washington last week. Arizona leads ASU in the all-time series, 83-72.

The Coaches

Larry Ray (Idaho State '74) is 38-1 in his tenure as acting head coach of the Wildcats. Including five seasons (four of competition) building a Florida program he has a career record of 207-107. His work with the Arizona program dates to 1986 and he was Candrea's top assistant for 10 years. Acting associate head coach Nancy Evans, a former Honda Award winner as a player, has been an assistant at UA since 1999. UA's start of 34-0 to open the year gave Ray the best start in Arizona history.


The Coach

Arizona's Mike Candrea carries a career record of 982-191 in 18 years at UA, but put it on hold this season while he's on partial leave to be head coach of the U.S. Olympic Team. The eight-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year is a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He has led Arizona to six national championships and seven Pac-10 titles. Candrea has led UA to 16 consecutive College World Series.

Last Week

No. 1 Arizona was slated to take on Pac-10 foes No. 7 Washington and No. 2 UCLA last weekend in the first conference games of the season. Heavy rains in Tucson cancelled the Washington game, but the weather cooperated enough for both UCLA games to be played. In Saturday's contest, Arizona fell to a 5-0 deficit in the second inning, when Wildcat pitcher Alicia Hollowell gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases for the Bruins' Lisa Dodd. Dodd singled, driving in a run and again loading the bases for leadoff hitter Caitlin Benyi, who smashed a grand slam to finish UCLA's scoring. Arizona remained scoreless until the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out, Crystal Farley walked, Caitlin Lowe singled to center, and Autumn Champion walked, loading the bases for Wendy Allen. Allen also walked, scoring Farley. Mackenzie Vandergeest fouled off several pitches before belting a grand slam homer off UCLA pitcher Keira Goerl just fair over the left field wall to tie the game. With two out, Jackie Coburn drew a walk, bringing Shelly Schultz to the plate. Schultz homered to left, ending the game in favor of the Cats, 7-5. Sunday's game, televised on CSTV, was nearly identical to the game the night before. After a 90-minute rain delay in the second inning, play resumed with the Bruins leading, 1-0. Arizona tied it in the bottom of the fourth thanks to Lowe's baserunning. The Bruins took back the lead in the top of the fifth, with homers by Andrea Duran and Claire Sua, putting UCLA up, 4-1. In the bottom of the sixth, Arizona led off with singles by Samantha Quintero and Allyson VonLiechtenstein, followed by a right-center home run by Lowe to tie the game. UCLA was held scoreless in the seventh, and in Arizona's half of the inning, Schultz once again came through in the clutch. Kristie Fox singled to lead off and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Coburn reached on a Bruins error, advancing Fox to third. With no outs, Schultz singled down the left field line to give UA a 5-4 victory.

The Rankings

UA has been No. 1 for three weeks, giving it the top spot in the NFCA poll at least once every year since 1993. Arizona was ranked No. 2 in the preseason NFCA poll, and No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll. Feb. 11: 2/3. Feb. 18: 2/3. Feb. 25: 2/2. March 3: 2/2. March 10: 2/2. March 17: 1/1. March 24: 1/1. March 30:1/1. April 7: TBA. UA has been ranked steadily since 1988 by the NFCA.

Players of the Week

Pitcher Alicia Hollowell earned the Pac-10 weekly honor four times this year - Feb. 24, March 2, March 9 and March 22. She also was USA Softball National Player of the Week March 22 after five victories at the Kia Klassic. Outfielder Autumn Champion won league Player of the Week honors Feb. 17 and Wendy Allen won Feb. 24. Those are the 88th honors for UA, and ninth for Hollowell.

Wildcat Softball Notes

...Arizona's first three hitters in the lineup (Lowe, Champion, Allen) are hitting .479, .500, and .442, combining for 154 hits, 121 runs, and 89 RBI. All three have a chance to crack the Arizona single-season batting average Top 10 - a list of players who hit above .437 and in the process earned first-team All-American honors during those seasons... ...Lowe and Champion have combined at the top of the order for 61 stolen bases in 65 attempts. Lowe has been caught stealing just once this season. Her total of 39 steals is No. 6 in UA history and trails No. 2 (Vivian Holm, 49-53 in 1987) by 10. The season record is 67 by Alison McCutcheon in 1998... Lowe brings another aspect besides speed -- some power when she's given the sign to swing away. She has three home runs among 11 extra-base hits... ...In some close games - and games in which UA trailed - vs. UCLA, coach Larry Ray didn't turn the Cats loose much on the bases. UA attempted only two steals against the Bruins in two games and Lowe had the only success, when UA trailed 1-0. She subsequently scored on two wild pitches... ...Mackenzie Vandergeest hit her 11th home run of the season, a game-tying grand slam off UCLA's Kiera Goerl, putting her in the lead on the team ahead of Coburn, who has 10. Vandergeest has 56 career blasts, No. 4 on UA's career chart... ...Hollowell struck out 18 Bruins in last week's two-game series, putting her season total at 320, just 74 K shy of her own single-season record of 394. With 18 regular-season games left and the opportunity to start many of those, she could demolish last year's record-setting feat... He total of 320 is No. 3 on the chart... With victories in both games, her season record of 25-0 is four victories shy of the single-season Top 15 chart for Arizona. It's obvious she has a chance to be the all-time victories leader for UA, with a 65-5 mark in less than two years. UA coach Nancy Evans holds the mark with a 124-8 record, the best winning percentage in NCAA history... Hollowell has 10 of Arizona's 14 victories against ranked teams, thanks in no small part to the late-inning heroics her teammates provided last week vs. UCLA... ...Hollowell, Wendy Allen and Leslie Wolfe have combined for 429 strikeouts in 163 innings pitched. The pace would blow away the school-record 9.8 strikeouts per seven innings pitched by the 2001 team staffed by Jennie Finch, Becky Lemke and Jenny Gladding... This year's group is averaging 11.8 K per seven innings... ...One thing a bunch of strikeouts does is give your catcher a pile of putouts. Mackenzie Vandergeest's 430 this year is nearly on the single-season top 10 and gives her a career total of 1603 putouts, No. 2 behind a four-year first baseman, Amy Chellevold, of the 1992-95 teams. She passed former catcher Lindsey Collins (1545) a few weeks ago... She has one error in 456 chances, a sparkling .988 fielding percentage at a key spot... ...Arizona has outscored opponents 289-51, but has proven it's a tough team in close games. One-third of the 39 games have been decided by three runs or less and UA is 12-1 in those contests... ...UA's 34-game winning streak to open the year compares with the school- and NCAA-record 47-game streak from April 1996 to March 1997. It matched a 34-game streak by the 2000 team for the second-best... ...After this week's trip to Tempe, Arizona stays on the road for two more weeks, in the Bay Area and at the Oregon schools...