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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Softball takes on Alabama

    Left fielder Brittany Lastrapes talks to the media on Friday, May 29, about Arizonas game against Alabama.
    Left fielder Brittany Lastrapes talks to the media on Friday, May 29, about Arizona’s game against Alabama.

    OKLAHOMA CITY – The years 2005 and 2006 saw back-to-back championships for Arizona. If the Wildcats lose 2 p.m. ET Saturday against Alabama, they will set another back-to-back stat – sweeps in the Women’s College World Series.

    All year the Arizona Wildcats (46-16) have felt that their backs were against the wall, and now, literally and figuratively, they are. After falling to No. 1 Florida 3-0 on Thursday, it’s win or go home.

    The fate of their season rests on the outcome of their Saturday match-up with Alabama in the losers’ bracket.

    “”We’re determined to not go home 0-2 like we did last year,”” said first baseman Sam Banister. “”If we can live in the moment and play Arizona softball, I think that we’ll be OK.””

    Similarities to the 2008 WCWS emerged as Arizona started play in Oklahoma City, Okla.

    Like last year’s opening contest against UCLA, their first game ended in a shutout loss. Adding to the similarities, the Wildcats face No. 4 Alabama in their second game, as they did in last year’s tournament.

    After facing Stanford pitcher Missy Penna in the Super Regionals and Florida ace Stacey Nelson in the WCWS, the Wildcats will most likely face their third straight All-American pitcher in the Crimson Tide’s Kelsi Dunne.

    “”We’ve faced a fair amount of good pitching throughout the year,”” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “”When you come here, you don’t expect to face someone that can’t get you out or they wouldn’t be here.””

    Alabama, however, has another pitching option in Charlotte Morgan, who also earned first team All-American honors as a utility player. On average, both players allow less than two runs per game.

    Morgan, a Player of the Year candidate, is a double threat for Alabama. Both in the circle and at the plate she has shown her dominance throughout the season as her 0.406 batting average leads the team.

    Dunne (27-4) threw two straight no-hit shutouts before stumbling against No. 5 Michigan on Thursday. If the Crimson Tide decides to throw with her on one days rest, Arizona will have some familiarity in the batters box.

    “”We saw her last year,”” third baseman Jenae Leles said. “”We made adjustments with her last year and I think we’ll make adjustments with her this year.””

    In their loss against Florida, pitching was not the problem for Arizona. Junior Sarah Akamine took the circle in the third inning after starter Lindsey Sisk gave up three runs off of two long balls. As for Arizona’s pitching status against Alabama, Candrea said it will be the same as always – a game time decision.

    For Candrea, practice Friday afternoon was all about returning to basics and simplicity at the plate. “”See ball, hit ball”” was the mentality for Arizona as they took batting practice.

    “”He wanted us to come out here and have a simple practice and get our confidence back up after facing Stacey (Nelson),”” Banister said.

    But Candrea is looking for a combined team effort, not just in the circle or at the plate.

    “”That’s when all aspects of your game come together,”” he said. “”You have to play great defense, you have to get timely hits and you’ve got to pitch.””

    Arizona will attempt to get over its hitting woes by having a simple mindset when they enter the batters’ box. Patience and seeing one ball at a time will be the solution to preventing another shutout and another early trip back to Tucson.

    The ultimate goal – the 2009 NCAA championship – is not impossible for Arizona but nearly so. They would have to win at least five straight games to be crowned champions again.

    About every 20 years, some team pulls of a miracle in softball and wins the World Series after losing the first game. Texas A&M did it in 1983, and UCLA went all the way in 2003.

    Although Arizona could go home after Saturday’s game, the Wildcats are looking at their game against Alabama as a launching point rather than the final descent.

    “”It’s gonna lead us to a great story,”” Leles said. “”We’ve always had our backs against the wall the whole year, in every situation. This is just another one to overcome.””

    Extra Bases

    If Arizona moves on to play in Game 10 of the WCWS, they will face No. 10 Arizona State. The Sun Devils fell to No. 3 Washington 1-0 in eight innings Friday.

    The Wildcats swept the Sun Devils in their three-game season series.

    Click here for the Summer ’09 softball homepage

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