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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Mauga-bombs her way towards the history books

Pearl Dixon

Arizona’s Katiyana Mauga (34) bats during the softball game against Baylor on Feb. 11. Mauga is just 16 home runs shy of becoming the all-time home run leader in school history.

Among the many storylines attached with the Arizona softball season heading in to 2017, Katiyana Mauga’s home run chase ranks as the most intriguing and amusing, team or player storyline for this year’s Wildcats.

Mauga finished her junior season with 67 home runs and put herself in the reach of two different home run records.

The Arizona school record is 87, set by Stacie Chambers during her career from 2008-2011, the national record stands at 95.

“We’ve talked a lot about [the records],” said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. “The first thing you do is you don’t want her to be thinking about that home run thing. The big thing with her, and I’ve talked to her about it, is that it’s not about her physical ability it’s just about keeping the six inches between your ear clear.”

Mauga won’t have to worry about her teammates talking to her about the chase. Senior pitcher Danielle O’Toole said that while Mauga’s teammates are excited for her, they won’t be mentioning any of the milestones to her.

“We don’t talk about it,” O’Toole said” “That’s like going to a pitcher who’s throwing a no-hitter, don’t do that.”

The chase began this weekend when the Wildcats played the first five games of their season hosting the Hillenbrand Invitational. Mauga likely wasn’t thinking about getting her first home run of the season out of the way, but she wasted no time hitting getting it done.

In her second at-bat of the season on Thursday night against Fordham, Mauga led of the inning with a solo shot on an off-speed pitch that almost fooled her.

“No,” Mauga said when asked if she got all of her first home run. “That was definitely a one-armed swing way out in front but it went over.”

Mauga finished the weekend batting .429 (6-14) with four home runs, eight RBIs and a staggering OPS of 1,828.

When Arizona’s Stacie Chambers set the all-time Arizona home run record in 2011, the mark had stood for 13 years. In 1995, Arizona great Laura Espinoza hit 37 home runs during her senior year, still the Arizona single-season record, and shot all the way to number one on the all-time list. Leah Braatz got to 85 home runs in 1998 tying Espinoza, and they have remained at the top since.

Candrea coached Chambers during her career at Arizona from 2008-2011. Chambers established herself as left-handed power hitting machine with a career-high 31 home runs during her sophomore season in 2009.

For all the power Chambers had, Mauga is still the only player in NCAA history to hit at least 20 home runs in each of her first three seasons. Her consistency, and all-around game, has Candrea preferring his current slugger.

“[Stacie] Chambers used to hit some bombs, but I always felt that she had a little bit of a hole in her swing,” Candrea said. “One thing about Kati is, she will hit the ball to all fields. And she will hit the ball to all fields with power. That’s the difference.”

As the San Diego native continues to establish her place among the great players at Arizona andthe chase to all-time home run leader Lauren Chamberlain.

Chamberlain played at Oklahoma, and ender her career in 2015 with 95 career home runs. Mauga knew about Chamberlain long before her career with the Sooners, they played against each other before playing in college.

“She’s a great player,” Mauga said. “I actually played against her in [club softball] when we were younger, she’s definitely a great player who is striving to be great at the pro level. I think she left her mark at Oklahoma and the NCAA record too, so hopefully I can get up there and beat her.”

When asked how he thought Chamberlain and Mauga matched up with each other, Candrea noted that as different as the two were, they have similar traits.

“They’re different type of hitters but, obviously, they have great power,” Candrea said. “The thing I liked about Chamberlain that I like about Katiyana is that she’s not just a home run hitter. When [Mauga’s] really good she’s going to take what they give her, she’s going to have patience at the plate and she’s going to swing at good pitches. That’s what Lauren was.”

There’s nothing like home run chases. Whether it be in baseball watching Barry Bonds chase single-season and career home run records in 2001 and 2007 respectively, or recently in softball watching Chamberlain take out multiple Wildcats on her way up the list, what’s better than a home run chase?

“It’s fun to watch someone that has that type of skill and to be able to do what she does the way she does it,” Candrea said. “You don’t see too many of those.”

For as much fun as followers of the Wildcats will have following Mauga’s climb up the all-time list, Mauga continues to do whatever is required for her team, even if it means sacrificing an at-bat to lay down a bunt.

In Mauga’s first plate appearance on Sunday against Tulsa, she squared up to bunt early in her at-bat and fouled off a pitch. It’s early in the season, a sensible time for Candrea to make such a call, but it’s safe to assume there won’t be too many Mauga bunt attempts come May.

“I thought [Candrea] was going to make her bunt and I was like ‘good for her,’” O’Toole said. “She’s going to do that and give up an at-bat in the chase and she’s not even looking at it. That’s awesome for us.”

Mauga is sitting at 71 career home runs with 51 games to play, the top of the all-time NCAA home run list is well in her sights. She is tied for fifth on the all-time Arizona list with Chelsea Goodacre, and with five more home runs she will tie Jenny Dalton for fourth.

Breaking the record would only mean something to Mauga if she could bring the Wildcats back to the WCWS for the first time since 2010.

“The great thing about Kati is her number one goal is to help this team win and get back to the college world series,” Candrea said.

Candrea’s job will be easier with Mauga on his side, according to Candrea there’s no easy way to face someone who is challenging the records Mauga is chasing this season.

“It’s hard to pitch to someone like that,” Candrea said. “Unless you just walk them.”

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter.

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