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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘Cats try to cling to season

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona Wildcats softball team took on the Arizona State Sun Devils on Thursday, April 21, 2011, at Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. A seventh-inning Sun Devil grand slam lifted the visitors to a 4-0 win.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats softball team took on the Arizona State Sun Devils on Thursday, April 21, 2011, at Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. A seventh-inning Sun Devil grand slam lifted the visitors to a 4-0 win.

For head coach Mike Candrea and the Arizona softball team, it starts and ends with UCLA.

“”Right now, the rest of our season is next week,”” he said. “”We’ve got UCLA at UCLA and that’s going to be important.””

For being the top two teams at the end of the season last year, the Wildcats and the Bruins aren’t faring so well. The Wildcats (37-13, 8-7 Pacific 10 Conference) are trying to work their way out of a slump that has left them in fourth place in Pac-10 play. Arizona dropped two straight series to ASU and Oregon. No. 14 UCLA (31-13, 7-8) is riding a four-game losing streak, including three straight to California, the Wildcats’ final opponent of the year.

Arizona fell three spots to No. 13 in the ESPN/USA Softball rankings, but the last two weeks of the season could be even more damaging to its record with the return of starting pitcher Kenzie Fowler still unknown.

Both teams struggled to produce runs last weekend despite getting adequate performances from their pitching staffs.

Center fielder Lauren Schutzler said that while the games played for the national title in June would serve as inspiration, this week’s preparation would be crucial to Arizona’s performance in the series in Los Angeles, Calif.

“”I’m ready (for UCLA). We have a couple days of practice,”” Schutzler said. “”We really need to ramp things up and go hard and practice with a lot of intensity. But I’m definitely going in there with a chip on my shoulder.””

The classic softball rivalry will be renewed again on Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at noon. Friday’s game can be seen on FS-Arizona on tape delay.

After UCLA, Arizona returns home to host the California Golden Bears (34-9, 10-5), who are currently on a five-game winning streak. The Golden Bears have only lost one game in their last 11 contests and have to travel to Oregon State this weekend to take on the last-place Beavers.

Arizona’s bats have been struggling and that could continue when Cal rolls into town. The Golden Bears lead the conference in team ERA with a low 1.70. Cal’s pitching, rather than its offense, is a major reason it has hold of second place in the conference. Cal is currently seventh in the conference in runs scored, hits and runs batted in, all categories where Arizona ranks second. If Fowler has returned from her concussion in the next two weeks, the California series could be a huge momentum boost for the Wildcats going into the postseason.

Fowler’s return could be the biggest influence on the rest of the season for the Wildcats. At this point in the season, it’s unlikely that Arizona would host the Regional play in the confines of Hillenbrand Stadium. For Candrea, however, his concerns lie with finishing conference play.

“”We’ve got Cal (at home),”” he said, “”so we’ve got to finish strong in the Pac-10 first of all and then worry about what happens after that.””

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