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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Playing through the pain

Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Akamine throws to first base during game against Mizzou.
Colin Darland
Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat Akamine throws to first base during game against Mizzou.

When No. 2 Arizona softball’s head coach Mike Candrea exited the home dugout at Hillenbrand Stadium during the team’s Tuesday practice, he walked straight over to the bullpen.

There sat senior pitcher Sarah Akamine, who helped Arizona make it to the Women’s College World Series a season ago.

Watching, rather than playing, is something Akamine has been growing accustomed to this season.

“”We’d like to see Sarah’s innings increase this week. So that will be a goal for us,”” Candrea said.

The coaching staff will have the chance to increase the Escondido, Calif., native’s reps in the upcoming home games against non-ranked opponents, starting today at 4 and 6 p.m. against New Mexico State. The games against the Aggies (9-4) kick off a home stand that has the Wildcats (12-1) playing seven games in six days.

The veteran Akamine, who led the team in wins and strikeouts last season, has experienced soreness in her back after offseason surgery to remove ruptured and herniated disks. Akamine had to spend about a week and a half in the hospital over the summer and has spent the entire season rehabilitating her back.

“”Right now it’s a little tight. I’ve gone through it before so it’s nothing new,”” Akamine said. “”It’s been like that for a while. I think because we’re getting into the season and working really hard, it’s acting up more.”” As the season has progressed, Akamine has seen less and less action. Over the weekend at the Cathedral City Classic, freshman ace Kenzie Fowler pitched all five games. Akamine started one game against California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, but Candrea pulled her after just 3 2/3 innings.

“”The biggest thing I’m concerned about (is) overdoing it,”” Candrea said of using Akamine before she is ready. “”There was a situation this weekend where we had a sloppy field. When you have someone that’s had back surgery, the last thing you want to happen is to go backward.

“”I said ‘The big thing for you right now is to be able to have the mindset you go out and throw five good innings for us and then we bring in Kenzie in relief,'”” Candrea said

Although Akamine sports a 2-1 record, the Wildcats will need to see more of her in the circle if Arizona hopes to be successful. While Fowler has proved she can go pitch for pitch, overworking her this early in the season is something that the Wildcats will want to avoid at all costs.

“”You have to look at the big picture,”” Candrea said. “”We’re going to have to pick up some quality innings.””

Since the Wildcats do not face a ranked team in the next two weeks, Akamine will have time to see if her back will cooperate with her pitching routine.

On the season, Akamine has seen action in just five of Arizona’s 13 games. The questions threaded throughout the season will focus on whether she can make it from the dugout to the circle.

“”Basically it’s whatever it takes to get through,”” Akamine said. “”With four months left to get through, I might as well put everything into it.””

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