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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball must make choice

    Let’s face it: the Oregon schools aren’t prime examples of elite-level Pacific 10 Conference softball.

    Take a look at No. 2 Washington, No. 3 Stanford, No. 5 UCLA and No. 6 ASU. Pulling up the rear – if you could call it that – is No. 11 Arizona, which swept three games against the Oregon schools this past weekend.

    Throughout those games, the Wildcats lacked the killer instinct that would take this team from great to dominating, and nothing in this season has shown that Arizona is ready to take down a Women’s College World Series-caliber team.

    Notice “”is ready”” is in the present-tense, meaning there is potential for the Wildcats to be ready.

    In the top of the final inning during Sunday’s match against the Ducks, the Wildcats showed a glimpse of themselves that had not yet been seen.

    With her team up by two, Oregon’s Monique Fuiava belted a ball to right field that was about to clear the wall, when freshman right fielder Karissa Buchanan earned the final out, snatching the ball by the tip of her glove as she slammed into the wooden outfield fence.

    “”At that point, I was just looking at the ball,”” Buchanan said of the play. “”I hit the wall, I fell on my bottom and the ball was in my glove.””

    By the time she gathered herself and stood up, she had ignited the Arizona crowd as well as her teammates. In the bottom of the inning, K’Lee Arredondo smashed a two-run homer to tie the game and Jenae Leles hit the very next pitch out of the park for the dramatic walk-off win.

    That seventh inning determination will need to be constant for the Wildcats to succeed in the Pac-10, and they’ll need that energy and focus for more than two at-bats in a row. They’ll need that energy and focus throughout entire games.

    There won’t be the comebacks to sub-.500 teams like Oregon, nor the blowouts against the Simon Frasers once they start the brunt of their conference schedule. Most likely, the offense won’t continue to play at such a torrid pace when Pac-10 pitchers shut down – or at least muzzle – the Arizona bats.

    The talent is there, but the Wildcat’s time has run out. Head coach Mike Candrea’s teachings of the process relies on progression, but there are no more ‘gimmes’ in which Arizona will be able to regain their confidence after a loss.

    They’ll have to learn on the fly. Nothing will come easily, so the players cannot get down after one bad at-bat or one bad pitch.

    When she snagged that ball and simultaneously went nose-first into a plank of wood, Buchanan gave her teammates a choice: play with a similar do-anything-to-win aggression or let the daunting Pac-10 schedule take them on a downward spiral.

    That choice will be on display this weekend against two very good teams in Washington and UCLA. Sure, the Wildcats may not come out with another weekend sweep, but numbers only tell half the story. If they show progress and fight, Candrea probably won’t complain, no matter the outcome.

    “”I think we’ve learned a little bit of trust with one another,”” Arredondo said after the weekend series. “”It’s starting to slowly build.””

    Learning from Sunday’s seventh inning and building off the momentum will help the Wildcats progress as a team, but failing to build on that will make it mighty hard to find themselves before the post season.

    In a way, the victory was like a high school student walking into class as the tardy bell rang.

    Will the teacher let the student stay in class, or consider the student a second too late? Will Arizona take advantage of that last-minute uprising to have a strong showing in the Pac-10, or is it too little to late to gain momentum?

    But that analogy has a flaw, because it’s not anyone else’s decision to make.

    It’s their own.

    Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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