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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball had rare showing in WCWS

    The Arizona softball team’s exit from June’s Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City was almost surreal. After losing 1-0 to UCLA then 5-1 to Alabama at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, the back-to-back defending national champion Wildcats departed having been swept for the first time in 17 appearances since 1990.

    To make matters worse, UA head coach Mike Candrea didn’t have any control over the fate of his team. He watched from the stands of the stadium as his close friend and assistant coach Larry Ray coached in the dugout, filling in during the 2008 season while Candrea prepped the USA Team for the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

    For Ray, just getting the Wildcats to the World Series was an achievement. The last time he took over the UA team for a season – when Candrea took 2004 off for the Athens Games – the Wildcats didn’t make it to the WCWS, snapping a 15-year streak. At the end of regular season play in 2008, however, the Wildcats fought to get to Oklahoma City and were a No. 7 seed in the eight-team field.

    “”It was a very different year with coach Ray,”” said then-senior catcher Callista Balko. “”I think it was awesome and a great experience for him to get here because I heard him mention on TV that he saw that void in the outfield (on the wall of Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson) of him never making it to the World Series.””

    The loss to No. 2 seed UCLA and No. 3 seed Alabama was just part of it. Not getting that third national championship title in a row struck a chord with some players.

    When UA ace Taryne Mowat, who was named the 2007 WCWS Most Outstanding Player, was reminded that not many players can say they have two national championship trophies, she was able to crack a smile on her teary face.

    “”But I’m greedy,”” she said. “”I wanted three.””

    Mowatt, who moved to Washington, D.C. after the UA season to join the professional fastpitch team, the Washington Glory, finished the season 29-15 with 413 strikeouts over 285.2 innings after she went 42-12 the previous season. She finished her career at Arizona with a 107-33 record, giving her the fourth-most wins in Wildcat history behind Jennie Finch (119), Nancy Evans (124) and Alicia Hollowell (134).

    “”Last year we got the key hit at the right time,”” Mowatt said. “”You have a little bit of luck on your side, things fall in. This year the luck was not on our side. Alabama got the key hit when they needed it.””

    Stinging even deeper was the fact that ASU won the national title, going undefeated in the WCWS.

    For the past 20 years, either Arizona or UCLA has played in the Championship Series of the WCWS, combining for 16 national titles since 1987. The Sun Devils would not have that this past season. They swept the Wildcats 3-0 during the regular season for the first time since 1988.

    “”It’s about time,”” said ASU ace Katie Burkhart. “”It’s about time that the Sun Devils begin to shine. We’ve been in the shadows of the Wildcats for a long time and we worked just as hard, if not harder, and we wanted it this year.””

    But now the Wildcats’ early exit from the WCWS is in the past. Next season they’ll have a new ace, a new attitude and their head coach back.

    “”I can’t wait to get back on the field,”” Ray said. “”Every year that we don’t win the last game, I can’t wait to get back and start all over again.””

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