No. 9 Arizona travels to Cathedral City, Calif., for five games in the Palm Springs Classic.? The Wildcats open on Friday with San Diego State at 3:30 p.m. before taking on 2007 WCWS foe No. 10 Baylor at 6 p.m.? On Saturday UA has a 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. dates with Massachusetts and Long Island, respectively, before wrapping up the weekend with No. 6 LSU on Sunday at 9 a.m.
ON THE AIR:
Free Live Stats, powered by Tucson Electric Power, will be provided for all home games and many road games.? Live stats are expected to be available, pending Internet access at the ballpark.
NOTING THE OPPONENTS:
FRIDAY, FEB. 22
SAN DIEGO STATE : ?The Aztecs come into the weekend boasting 9-1 record and checked into this weekˇ?s USA Softball poll at No. 25.? SDSU has earned quality victories over Cal Poly, California and Fresno State, and will have several opportunities to prove itself this weekend with contests scheduled against Northwestern, Oklahoma, Georgia and Baylor, all of whom are ranked in the Top 25.
Senior pitcher Christina Ross (5-1, 0.52 ERA) leads the Aztecs in the circle and has help from freshmen Samantha Beasley (2-0, 0.00 ERA) and Brooke Petty.? The trio has combined for a 0.50 staff ERA, six shutouts in 10 games and has surrendered just 11 walks in over 70 innings pitched.
BAYLOR: ?The Lady Bears will venture outside of Waco for the first time of the young 2008 season and will do so sporting a 5-1 record.? The defending Big 12 Champions have out-hit their opponents .387 to .190 this year, thanks in large part to senior first baseman Jordan Daniels, who has already blasted five home runs in just 18 at-bats.? BUˇ?s schedule this weekend will have a Pac-10 flavor with additional match-ups against Oregon and UCLA.
SATURDAY, FEB. 23
MASSACHUSETTS : ?The 19-time Atlantic 10 Conference Champions are led by defending A-10 Pitcher of the Week, who is coming off a weekend in which she went 2-1 with a 0.33 ERA.? Like Arizona, UMass enters the weekend with a 2-3 mark after one weekend of play.
For free live audio of Arizonaˇ?s game with the Minutewoman, log on to www.umassathletics.com.
LONG ISLAND : ?The Blackbirds are 3-2 on the year, but have struggled at the plate early on with a .195 team batting average.? The good news for LIU is that its pitchers have limited opponents to a .127 average and have a composite 0.74 ERA.
SUNDAY, FEB. 24
LSU: ?The sixth-ranked team in the country will be put to the test on Saturday with games against No. 23 Cal State Fullerton and second-ranked Northwestern.? In just seven games, the Tigers have already stolen 37 bases as a team ?C led by Dee Dee Hendersonˇ?s 12 steals in as many attempts.? Team RBI leader Taylˇ?r Hollis has two home runs and 11 RBI, but perhaps most remarkably her .350 batting average ranks seventh on the team.
RECAPPING THE KAJIKAWA:
Arizona opened its 2008 season in Tempe last weekend with a pair of wins and three losses.? After having contests against Notre Dame and Texas Tech rained out on Friday, the Wildcats got thrown into the fire with games against 2007 WCWS participants No. 6 Northwestern and No. 3 Texas A&M.? Northwestern defeated UA, 8-5, thanks in large part to a five-run third inning.? UA showed some heart with a four-run effort in the seventh to bring the game to its final margin.
Later that afternoon, unearned runs did the ˇ®Cats in, causing a 3-2 loss to Texas A&M.? The Aggies managed to get a run out of a walk, a wild pitch, a passed ball and a single to take an early 1-0 lead.? After Stacie Chambersˇ? first career home run tied the game in the top of the fourth, the Aggies cashed in two more unearned markers in the bottom half of the frame.? With two outs and runners on second and third, a dropped fly ball in left allowed the two Aggies to score.? In addition to Chambersˇ? homer, Wildcats can take heart in freshman pitcher Lindsey Siskˇ?s debut.? The Murrieta Valley, Calif., native scattered eight hits and did not allow an earned run in six innings against the Big 12 favorites.
The next day, the Wildcats wasted a two-hitter from Taryne Mowatt in a, 1-0, loss to Nevada.? Arizona stranded 12 runners, including 10 in scoring position and three that reached third base.? Next, UA swept a doubleheader with Southern Utah, winning a pair of run-rule games by counts of 8-0 and 11-3.? Those contests were highlighted by four hits in five at-bats for Cyndi Duran and four RBI apiece for Jenae Leles and Callista Balko.
ARIZONA HEAD COACH MIKE CANDREA ?C ?is in his 23rd season at the helm of the Arizona softball program.? He boasts a 1,131-228-2 (.832) record in 21 seasons in the dugout.? This year, he is taking an eight-month partial leave of absence beginning in January 2008 to serve as head coach for the U.S. Womenˇ?s National Team.? ??Candrea has earned 19 coach-of-the-year honors, including 10 Pac-10 Coach of the Year citations.? Last year, the Pac-10 tabbed Candrea as its coach of the year, and the NFCA named Candrea and his assistants its national staff of the year.? Similar to this season, Candrea took a leave of absence in 2004 to coach the USA Olympic softball team to a 9-0 record and a gold medal in Athens.? Candrea was also awarded the Olympic Shield award, the U.S. Olympic Committeeˇ?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.
CANDREA NEVER FAR AWAY:
Although Coach Candrea will be with the U.S. Womenˇ?s National Team on a grueling 40-city tour throughout the spring, he will be on hand in Tucson periodically to infuse the leadership that has taken the Arizona softball program to the top of the game.? A preliminary schedule indicates that he will be with Arizona for the following time periods:
- Candrea will see UA play for at least one full weekend every month
- Candrea will spend a minimum of six weekdays in Tucson every month from February through April
- Candrea is slated to be in town for approximately 17 Arizona games, including the Palm Springs Classic, Fullertonˇ?s Judi Garman Classic and nine Arizona home games
INTERIM HEAD COACH LARRY RAY: With head coach Mike Candrea on a partial leave of absence during the 2008 season, 17-year assistant coach Larry Ray has taken the reins of the Arizona softball program.? Ray enters 2008 with a 226-115 (.663) career record as a head coach and five NCAA Championships as an assistant.? Ray possesses a powerful combination of head coaching experience and familiarity with Arizona softball.? Ray spent five years as Floridaˇ?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.
Arizona used five different starting lineups in its games at the Kajikawa Classic, so expecting whatˇ?s on the card isnˇ?t yet a given. Itˇ?s clear freshman left fielder Brittany Lastrapes?should lead off, and evident Sam Banister, Jenae Leles and Stacie Chambers are likely to populate the middle of the order.
Interim head coach Larry Ray used multiple players at every position except Lastrapesˇ? in Tempe last weekend. She was leadoff hitter every game except the opener, when center fielder Adrienne Acton started the lineup.?Ray started three players at third base -- Jenae Leles (3), Sarah Akamine and Sam Banister.
The Cats entered their final two games in Tempe, against Southern Utah, sporting a .202 team batting average. Part of that was from facing some solid front-line pitchers in Northwesternˇ?s Lauren Delaney and Texas A&Mˇ?s Megan Gibson, and part of it was lack of aggressive at bats. The lineup shakeup for the fourth game of the year ?C topsy-turvy goods with players slotted at previously unplayed spots (such as Jenae Leles getting a first start at shortstop) helped instill the notion that jobs need to be earned.
UA responded with some mercy-rule action in a pair of games against Southern Utah and boosted the team batting average 90 percentage points to .292.
LONG OVERDUE FOR A REST:
Senior catcher Callista Balko, who previously had caught the last 130 games and 877.1 innings for the Cats, found herself watching from the dugout in the first game of the Southern Utah doubleheader on Sunday. Catching and batting fifth in Sundayˇ?s finale, she responded with and a two-run double in the second and a two-run home run in the sixth.
Prior to her game off on Sunday, the last? time someone other than Balko suited up behind the dish for the Wildcats was in June 2005, when Jackie Coburn caught Alicia Hollowell in UAˇ?s season-ending loss to Texas at the Womenˇ?s College World Series.
PICKING UP WHERE SHE LEFT OFF:
All-WCWS selection Jenae Leles tallied both game-winning hits against Southern Utah and leads UA with five RBI in as many games.? She is hitting .429 with four runs scored.? Additionally, she started two games at shortstop after having started all but one over the last two years at third base.
Sophomore designated player/catcher Stacie Chambers saw her first collegiate action this past weekend, and made it count with a .400 batting average and a pair of home runs.? The Glendale, Ariz., native did not play in 2007 due to a lingering head injury she suffered in fall 2006.
SLOW START: ?
Arizonaˇ?s 0-3 start this year was its worst since Mike Candreaˇ?s 1989 team opened 0-2 in a doubleheader against Oregon in Pac-10 play to open the year. His 1987 team also matched the 0-3 start.
BUT HOPE REMAINS: ?UAˇ?s three-game skid was its first since dropping three in a row April 8-14, 2006, against UCLA (twice) and at Arizona State.? Needless to say, less than two months later the Wildcats won the NCAA Championship.
DEFENDING THE TITLE:
Arizona has experienced exceptional success in years following a national title.? The Wildcats have appeared in the national title game after every one of their national championships and average 60-7 record in those seven campaigns.?
Arizona has been ranked No. 1 in the country for at least part of the year every season since 1991.? This year is no different, as the Wildcats have been tabbed the preseason No. 1 team in the country both by the NFCA/USA Today and USA Softball/ESPN.com polls.
The Pacific-10 Conference coaches have selected Arizona as the team to beat in 2008.? The Wildcats narrowly beat out Arizona State by a 45 to 44 point margin in the preseason coaches poll.? Please see page 7 of the weekly notes for complete poll results.
USA SOFTBALL NATIONAL COLLEGIATE PLAYER OF THE YEAR ˇ?WATCH LISTˇ±:
?For the second consecutive year Arizona senior pitcher Taryne Mowatt and senior catcher Callista Balko were named to the exclusive 50-name preseason list.? Arizona is scheduled to face 25 of the highly-touted players.
MOWATT TABBED PRE-SEASON ALL-AMERICAN:
ESPN.com named Arizona senior pitcher Taryne Mowatt to its 12-player pre-season All-America team.??
READY AND RESTED:
This time last year, questions were raised of how then-junior pitcher Taryne Mowatt would handle the pitching load with the graduation of 2006 WCWS Most Outstanding Player Alicia Hollowell.? As the softball world now knows, Mowatt did just fine and made a name for herself in her own right.? Here is an abbreviated list of the Wildcat aceˇ?s 2007 accomplishments:
- Womenˇ?s College World Series Most Outstanding Player
- WCWS records: Innings pitched (60), victories (6), complete games (8), strikeouts (76)
- NFCA second-team All-America
- ESPY Award: Best Female Athlete, Best Female College Athlete
- First team All-Pacific-10
- Arizona and Pac-10 single-season records: Victories (42), innings pitched (370), strikeouts (522)
- Registered 22 victories over teams ranked in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
- Pitched three no-hitters (over Texas Tech, Arizona State and Howard)
- USA Softball Player of the Week (April 2-8)
- Four-time Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week
? For more information on Mowatt, please see page 16 of the notes.
CLOSER TO THE ACTION:
With the graduation of four-year starter and current student assistant coach Kristie Fox, sophomore Kˇ?Lee Arredondo will make the transition to her natural position of shortstop after having played the majority of 2007 in left field.? In 2007, Arredondo played seven games at short and 58 in left field.
OTHER POSITION CHANGES: ?
In addition to Kˇ?Lee Arredondoˇ?s move to shortstop, sophomore third baseman/pitcher Sarah Akamine will shift over to second base and senior outfielder Adrienne Acton is penciled in to be UAˇ?s center fielder after starting the last three years in right.? However, three different players already have seen action at short and third, and freshman Lauren Schutzler has had two starts in center.
NOTHING COMES EASILY:
As always, Arizona has scheduled a difficult non-conference slate and the numbers back it up.? In each of the last two years, the Wildcats have had the nationˇ?s best strength of schedule and finished second in the category in 2005.? If the preseason polls are any indication, UA is taking all comers once again.? According to the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, UA will play seven of the top 10 teams over the course of the season and will play 29 games against squads ranked in the Top 25.? In the USA Today/NFCA poll, the Wildcats are slated to face eight of the top 12 and play 27 contests against ranked teams.
WHATˇ?S LOST AND WHOˇ?S BACK:
In Kristie Fox, Caitlin Lowe and Chelsie Mesa, Arizona lost the top three hitters from its 2007 team.? Though the task to make up nearly 50 percent of a teamˇ?s run production is daunting, Wildcat fans remember that Fox had to replace an All-American by the name of Lovie Jung, who will be pursuing her second Olympic gold medal this summer.? Additionally, although Lowe was arguably the best offensive weapon and outfielder in the college game for the last four years, UA has a history of having to replace legendary outfielders such as Leah Oˇ?Brien, Alison McCutcheon and Lauren Bauer, among a host of other greats.
The good news for UA is that six position starters and its All-American pitcher are back, and all seven have shown flashes that they could be a top player in the Conference of Champions.
In the infield, junior third baseman Jenae Leles has started all but one game at the hot corner in the last two years and is coming off a postseason in which she batted. 389 with 13 RBI in as many games.
At shortstop, Kˇ?Lee Arredondo started all 65 contests for UA ?C primarily in left field ?C last year and the 2007 All-Pac-10 honorable mention is returning to her natural position after learning to play outfield in ˇ?07.
On the right side of the infield, juniors Sam Banister and Laine Roth likely will share first base and designated player duties for the third consecutive year, but the pair could be pushed for playing time by several newcomers.? Banister heated up in the back half of 2007, as evidenced by her .300+ batting average over the last two months of the season, a pair of game-winning hits against Washington and two multi-hit games against national player of the year Monica Abbott.? Roth led UA in on-base percentage (.458) during Pac-10 play and clubbed a pair of postseason home runs.
UAˇ?s battery consists of seniors Taryne Mowatt and Callista Balko who should provide a steady hand with Candrea on sabbatical, and new pitching coach Gale Bundrick working with UAˇ?s hurlers.
Senior outfielder Adrienne Acton is UAˇ?s only returning true-slapper and brings the highest returning batting average at .294.? UAˇ?s nine-hole hitter and right fielder for the last two and a half years likely will shift to center field for her final campaign.
WELCOMING THE NEWCOMERS:
Arizona brings in seven newcomers to the 19-player squad, including five freshmen and two transfers.? The freshmen consist of first baseman Corinna Gonzalez, second baseman Victoria Kemp, outfielder Brittany Lastrapes, outfielder Lauren Schutzler and pitcher/outfielder Lindsey Sisk, while senior pitcher Jennifer Martinez and junior outfielder Jessica McNamara are the transfers.? Martinez will redshirt the 2008 season after transferring in from Cal State Dominguez Hills, and McNamara comes from Pima College.
LOCAL CONNECTION: ?
This year, five of Arizonaˇ?s 19 players are local products ?C including four of the Wildcat seniors.? Senior Adrienne Acton (Marana, Ariz.) is joined by classmates Callista Balko, Cyndi Duran Danielle Rodriguez, and junior Jessica McNamara as Wildcats who hail from Tucson.
REPRESENTING THE OTHER RED, WHITE AND BLUE:
This spring, fans across the country can see former Wildcat greats Jennie Finch, Lovie Jung, Alicia Hollowell and Caitlin Lowe suit up for the U.S. Womenˇ?s National Team as it prepares for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.? The defending gold medalists made up of 18 of the nationˇ?s best players are led by UA head coach Mike Candrea and will play 60 games in over 40 cities in the coming months.
Current Wildcats Kˇ?Lee Arredondo, Brittany Lastrapes and Lindsey Sisk played for the U.S. Junior Womenˇ?s National Team this past year, and Lastrapes was named the MVP of the ISF Junior Womenˇ?s World Championships in the Netherlands.
ARIZONA SOFTBALL ATTENDANCE:
In 2008, not only will the Arizona softball team be able to call itself back-to-back national champions, but so will its fans.? For the second consecutive year, the Wildcat faithful led the nation in home game attendance with an average crowd of 1,534 per date and a total of 44,487 fans.? Throughout the season, fans will have the opportunity to be a part of softball history, as Hillenbrand Stadium nears 500,000 fans in cumulative attendance dating back to 1993.? Entering the season, Hillenbrandˇ?s aggregate attendance figure stands at 464,104.? With 1,845 season ticket holders signed up for what promises to be another exciting year of Wildcat softball, the goal of a half million fans is in sight.
? Call (520) 621-CATS or log on to arizonaathletics.com for ticket information.
WILDCAT SIGNEES: ?The Arizona coaching staff signed three high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during the November early signing period.? Kristen Arriola (INF, Pacifica High School, Garden Grove, Calif.), Perelini Koria (C, San Pedro High School, Gardena, Calif.) and Karissa Buchanan (OF, Sabino High School Tucson, Ariz.) are expected to enroll next fall.