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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Judi Garman Classic provides tough competition for Wildcats

    Arizona senior Jennifer Martinez hurls a pitch toward homeplate during a 9-0 UA win against Simon Fraser Tuesday at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats head to Fresno, Calif., this weekend for the Judi Garman Classic.
    Arizona senior Jennifer Martinez hurls a pitch toward homeplate during a 9-0 UA win against Simon Fraser Tuesday at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats head to Fresno, Calif., this weekend for the Judi Garman Classic.

    While most UA students will be peacefully relaxing over spring break, the No. 12 Arizona softball team will be hard at work.

    The Wildcats will hit the road to play seven games before returning home to Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium. Their toughest challenge of the season so far begins in Fullerton, Calif., where Arizona (23-5) will participate in the Judi Garman Classic – a tournament with games against five different teams, including No. 10 Michigan.

    “”The competition is going to be very good, so I think it will be a good snapshot of where we’re at right now,”” said UA head coach Mike Candrea. “”You can’t worry about anything other than just to go out and play the game hard and do what we do well.””

    Arizona comes into the tournament on a hot streak,winning nine of the 10 games they’ve hosted at home during the past few weeks. Right now, the Wildcats boast three players hitting for an average of better than .400, and sophomore Lauren Shutzler is batting a whopping .506. Arizona has outscored its opponents 268-73 this season.

    The weekend tournament begins on Friday when Arizona (23-5) will face off against Texas (24-7) and New Mexico (8-10) in the morning games. Saturday holds competition against Penn State (8-8) and Notre Dame (6-8) during the day. Sunday brings the toughest competition for the Wildcats in Michigan (16-6).

    “”We’re not going to be able to rely on the long ball and we need to tighten it up,”” sophomore Brittany Lastrapes said. “”They’re going to be some good games. We’re excited, but we know it’s for real. You know getting into real competition.””

    Arizona will sport three pitchers over the break. Although Sarah Akamine (11-3) and Lindsey Sisk (10-2) have seen the majority of the starts for the Wildcats, the pitching of redshirt senior Jennifer Martinez (2-0) and her changeup pitch gives Candrea and the pitching staff a different look in the circle. When asked who would start this weekend, Candrea revealed a new approach to his pitching situation.

    “”We’re going with throwing them one time through the lineup and then brining in another look,”” he said. “”I just don’t feel like we have someone right now that can stay strong for seven innings, keep a team off balance. We probably sandwich Jen between the other two because the other two are so similar.””

    But no matter what strategy Candrea employs, his players trust the move will be the right one.

    “”I feel confident. I think our pitching staff is going to do a great job this weekend,”” said Martinez. “”We play some tough teams this weekend, but I think for the most part we’re going to do fine.””

    Arizona will look to avoid the road woes they experienced at Texas A&M during the last weekend in February. The Wildcats dropped two games in College Station and snapped a 12-game winning streak.

    “”We learned our lesson the hard way. We know we can’t play for six innings,”” Lastrapes said. “”We have to play for seven so we know every inning every out counts so we can’t give them anything.””

    After the weekend tournament, Arizona heads to Las Cruces, N.M., to take on New Mexico State in a doubleheader on March 18. Arizona will return home on March 27 to open Pacific 10 Conference play against Oregon State at 7 p.m. After the series with New Mexico State (15-6), the Wildcats will have eight days off before beginning conference play.

    The Wildcats will take on six different teams during the break, and they have something to prove before entering play against conference rivals. Not including Arizona, five Pac-10 teams are currently ranked in the top 15 nationally.

    “”I just want to prove to everyone out there who says Arizona is going down the toilet, that we’re not,”” said senior Jenae Leles. “”We’re going to make the College World Series, to show everyone that we are the team (to beat) still and that we do have a huge target on our back, like always.””

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