The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

66° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pitchers seek equally consistent defensive support

Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The arrival of freshman pitcher Kenzie Fowler to the Wildcats didn’t just signal a change of pace in the circle for the Arizona softball team. It demanded it.

Her perfect 5-0 record combined with her .92 ERA has solidified her as the UA ace. Over the six games that she’s pitched, she has 52 strikeouts and has only allowed four runs to cross the plate in front of her.

“”She can match anyone pitch for pitch and gives us a chance,”” said head coach Mike Candrea.

Fowler has the power to go deep and rack up strikeouts as the game goes on. She changes the way the game is played both in the batter’s box and on the field behind her.

When Fowler controls the tempo of the game, the players behind her become accustomed to playing defense differently. Her speed and pitch variation keeps batters guessing, and they’re often successfully sent back to the dugout.

The freshman phenom has had the help of solid defense to back her up when she does get hit.

The same can’t be said for veteran pitcher Sarah Akamine.

A good defensive play can get a team out of a tight spot in an inning. A miscue can send the momentum straight to the other team’s dugout.

Arizona softball found out just how important defense can be in the second game of the double-header against the then-No. 5 Missouri Tigers on Sunday. Its early mistakes in the second game of Sunday’s double-header created a hole that the Wildcats couldn’t climb out of.

“”She got hit hard,”” Candrea said of Akamine’s performance. “”And she knows it.””

The defense seemingly switched off between games.

After a perfect first game in their home opener, the Wildcats made two crucial errors in the opening inning of the second game.

Mizzou racked up five runs in the first inning, two in the second and three in the third. All the runs were scored with two outs in the inning.

After Saturday’s 10-5 loss, Candrea said he noticed a difference in the way the defense played when Fowler was not in the circle.

If the Wildcats have any hopes of living up to the 2010 season expectation — the Wildcats were ranked No. 4 in preseason polls — the one thing that can’t change is how the defense plays. 

Errors will happen, sure. Balls take bad bounces. But if there is a conscious difference that happens in the minds of the Arizona defense when Fowler pitches versus when Akamine does, the Wildcats will see more mental lapses and more runs allowed.

The mistakes that happen in the field might be swept under the rug when Fowler pitches because she has the dominance to change the momentum of an inning. With speeds near those of Arizona great Jennie Finch, batters will have a tougher time keeping a rally going against her. 

Akamine, however, is a converted pitcher. Her efforts have proven to be effective and helped the Wildcats reach the postseason for the 21st straight year, but Candrea had to constantly switch up pitchers to keep opponents guessing. When she pitches, she needs the defense to be able to support her.

“”You need everyone to step up and do what they need to do,”” Candrea said of the defense after the loss. “”I think that’s going to be the big thing this week, is going to try to get Sarah (Akamine) back.””

Regardless of who’s in the circle, the defense behind any one of the Arizona pitchers has to be consistent. The Wildcats can go far this season. With losses by top-ranked Washington and the opportunity to squash more ranked teams this weekend, Arizona could be No. 1 in the nation today.

It has the power on the offensive side of the ball; it just needs to balance that with consistent play in the field.

“”We can play with the best and not play with the best,”” Candrea said. “”A lot depends on how you execute the game. In this game, if you give people four outs an inning, they’re going to come back and score runs.””

Just because Fowler can change the game in front of her doesn’t mean the players behind her should change theirs.

 

— Nicole Dimtsios is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

More to Discover
Activate Search