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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Get your tickets to the big show

    They’ve made it to the big top. And now the circus begins.

    The No. 9 seed Arizona Wildcat softball team begins play in their 21st Women’s College World Series Thursday against No. 1 seed Florida.

    The first game of the WCWS is sure to please as power versus power when Arizona’s bats and World Series experience face off against Florida’s pitching. The Wildcats (46-15) have been juggling their battles all year, first with questionable pitching and then with a cold streak of the offense on the road.

    Like a knife throwing act, the Gators have been deadly accurate when it comes to big time match-ups.

    The Gators have only lost three times this season, combining for a 60-3 overall record. They lost just one game in the SEC, and their secret to success has been their ability to shut opponents down in the circle while continuing to score runs.

    “”Florida’s a very solid team,”” head coach Mike Candrea said of Arizona’s first opponent. “”They have good pitching, they play good defense and swing the bats well.””

    Both teams have high-rise displays that can equally wow crowds. The Wildcats have the firepower to put on an offensive show, even against top-notch pitching. The Gators’ strength lies in their pitching spectacles and the support of their defense.

    Arizona has a secret weapon in their ringleader, Mike Candrea. This year, the skipper returns to the World Series, and his experience in Oklahoma City gives his team an edge over Florida. After all, this is only the second trip to the WCWS for the Gators.

    “”We kind of know what it’s like here at the College World Series,”” Candrea said. “”You have to get lucky, and you have to do it at the right time.””

    But the road to College World Series has been a winding road for the Wildcats. Arizona walked a tight rope in Regional and Super Regional competition but have made the road their home after finishing their last home series on April 26.

    Meanwhile, Florida remains perfect in post-season play. After winning their Regional, they swept California to advance to Oklahoma City.

    At the No. 9 spot, the Wildcats are the lowest seeded team in their bracket joining Florida, No. 4 Alabama and No. 5 Michigan. However, they are taking a different approach to their unusual underdog role.

    “”If people want to label us the underdogs, we will take it in stride,”” senior Sam Banister said. “”There are so many good teams that you never know what is going to happen.””

    Their match-up against Florida will determine who has the easier route to the big finale – the championship game. In double elimination play, the road to the final series of the softball season begins with a win.

    “”The first game is probably the most important,”” Candrea said. “”It puts you in the right side of the bracket to be able to continue.””

    The other big factor in the first game is momentum. Coming into the game, Florida has the edge – their last loss was on March 29 against Alabama.

    Arizona, however, is coming off a big win against Stanford in the Super Regionals, a series that many thought was settled after Arizona dropped the first game.

    Extra bases

    The Wildcats were awarded two sets of honors before the start of WCWS play.

    Louisville Slugger and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association named outfielder Brittany Lastrapes, catcher Stacie Chambers and infielder Jenae Leles All-Americans. Lastrapes was named first team All-American while Leles and Chambers were named to the third team.

    This is the second time Lastrapes was named an All-American after she landed on the third team during her freshman campaign. The All-American lauds were the first for Leles and Chambers. These selections tally Candrea’s All-American total at 82.

    In the classroom, senior Jill Malina and sophomore K’Lee Arredondo earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors on the first team while outfielder Lauren Schutzler was named to the second team.

    Malina complied a 3.71 GPA in physical education and Arredondo registered her second year on the first team with a 3.64 GPA in psychology.

    Schutzler earned a 3.43 GPA but has not declared a major. Athletes must have a minimum 3.0 overall GPA and either be a starter or significant contributor.

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