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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball plays last fall exhibitions

    Two Arizona freshman softball players were asked separately to define the Wildcat program with just a couple of words.

    Funny thing: They both said, “”Hard work.””

    The players were catcher Lini Koria and outfielder Karissa Buchanan. Along with the rest of the team, they’ll be playing in their final fall games this weekend.

    The Wildcats take on Arizona Western today at 4, then New Mexico and Central Arizona Saturday at 5:30 and 7:30, respectively. They’ll face Cypress College at 3 and Pima Community College at 5 on Sunday.

    “”This is an evaluation period for all of us,”” said UA head coach Mike Candrea, who will coach the Wildcats during a live game played at Hillenbrand for the first time since last season’s fall tournaments, because he was coaching the U.S. Olympic team and conducting clinics in Europe.

    “”We’re just trying to get the kinks out and get the new players acclimated.””

    Koria started to get acclimated before she was officially a Wildcat. She had come out to the field before classes started in August.

    “”I was working with the pitchers and making adjustments with each of them,”” Koria said. “”I gained a feel of where each one likes to throw pitches and started to feel comfortable.””

    Koria will be fighting for a starting position during the regular season, replacing departed senior Callista Balko – a stingy defender with a red-hot bat.

    So far, Koria is a pretty good replacement.

    The Carson, Calif., native went 4-for-6 in a fall exhibition series two weekends ago. She hit a 2-run home run in a 3-0 win the first day of fall play against Eastern Arizona.

    “”There’s obviously going to be big expectations in filling in for (Balko),”” Koria said. “”I did a lot of research and she was a great player.””

    Balko, who used up her four years of eligibility but hasn’t yet graduated, has come out to practice to go through drills and help critique the catchers on the team.

    As for as her offense, the humble Koria said she was just fortunate to hit the home run in her first weekend as a Wildcat. Home runs are nothing new to her – she hit 45 in high school – but she’s modest about them.

    “”It’s a great feeling, but I’m just happy I was able to help the team,”” Koria said. “”Honestly, I’m not planning on hitting home runs. I’m just planning on waiting for that perfect pitch and hitting the ball to knock a runner in.””

    Buchanan made an impact in a different way. She joined the team and became the Wildcats’ only Tucson native on the roster. The Sabino High School graduate had a successful career before college, but going on to the next level isn’t always easy.

    “”Making that next step can be a challenge,”” Candrea said. “”The biggest difference is the speed of the game. Everything’s quicker at the college level.””

    But Buchanan knows about quickness. Growing up, she enjoyed watching former Wildcat Caitlin Lowe, a speedy leadoff hitter.

    “”I like Caitlin Lowe because she’s a slap hitter and I’m a slap hitter,”” Buchanan said.

    But hard work typically yields wanted results – especially for the Wildcats. Becoming a part of the eight-time national champion program was a self-proclaimed dream come true for Buchanan.

    “”It still hasn’t really set in yet,”” she said.

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