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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats using pair of aces to their advantage

    UA pitcher Lindsey Sisk hurls a ball toward a batter in a 6-1 win against Utah on Sunday at Hillenbrand Stadium. Sisk has been splitting time in the pitching circle with Sarah Akamine this season.
    UA pitcher Lindsey Sisk hurls a ball toward a batter in a 6-1 win against Utah on Sunday at Hillenbrand Stadium. Sisk has been splitting time in the pitching circle with Sarah Akamine this season.

    Jenny Finch. Taryne Mowatt. Alicia Hollowell.

    All of these former Arizona aces dominated the pitching scene when they stepped into the circle. The emphasis for the Mike Candrea system has always been on the pitcher, who racked up strikeouts and frequently recorded shutout wins throughout the season.

    Although this system has worked for the Wildcats in the past, one of the season’s big concerns for the current Wildcats (13-2) is the strength and potential of the pitching staff. Who would emerge as the Arizona ace and once again lead the team back to the pinnacle of softball?

    “”You want a pitching staff that complements one another. I really don’t care if we have one, two or three, but we have to be effective,”” Candrea said.

    Early this season, not one, but two aces have emerged for Candrea. Arizona boasts junior Sarah Akamine and sophomore Lindsey Sisk, both returning pitchers from last year, bring a dominant force to the circle and have led Arizona on its current 12-game winning streak. Candrea knows that in light of missing a singular strikeout pitcher, he’s going to needed more than one dependable hurler.

    Changes are emerging for Arizona softball. The switch from relying on the strikeout to having to play solid defense, compiling a complete pitching staff and integrating a new pitching coach all have to come together to make Arizona a successful team this season.

    Executing pitches

    Last season Mowatt recorded 413 strikeouts as a senior.

    The execution of the pitching game is key this year. Neither pitcher specializes in strikeouts, but relies on the ground ball to mow down the opponent lineups. Throughout their games in the first three weekends of play, the Wildcats continue to work on hitting their spots and get through innings throwing as few pitches as possible.

    “”I think they’re starting to get some confidence that if they execute a pitch that the results are going to be favorable, either a ground ball or a pop up,”” Candrea said. “”Not worry so much about striking people out.””

    This means that the defensive side of the game will focus more on fulfilling a game plan. The players in the field and the pitcher in the circle must work together to get through the defensive parts of the inning. The pitching staff and defense have been working to improve their defensive game to form a complete team.

    “”They’re coming together slowly to be able to execute the game the way they need to because we’re not going to get a lot of strikeouts, so we need to come in and execute a game plan and play a lot of defense,”” Candrea said.

    Last year, Arizona recorded 43 errors throughout the season. That number will have to be reduced to keep opponents off the bases and the scoreboard.

    1-2-3’s

    At the beginning of the season, Sisk was presumed to be the heir to the Arizona pitching throne after Mowatt’s departure. After starting 16 games last season with a 10-3 record, most considered her to be Arizona’s ace. The opening week of softball was a setback as she dropped both of her starts in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.

    Since then, Sisk (6-2) has been lights out. Her pitching style warrants strikeouts from time to time, but mainly gets ground balls and pop flies in the infield. Her experience and strength gives endurance in her pitching game. In Arizona’s comeback win against North Dakota State on Saturday, she threw 97 pitches in seven innings and allowed just two runs.

    Akamine has a similar pitching style. She saw limited action last season at the end of the Pacific 10 Conference season. She pitched in four games, started 11 at second base, and continued to build her efforts to become a starting pitcher. So far this year, she has taken on the role of being a full-time starter and brings an impressive 7-0 record to the field. In the Wildcat Invitational, she pitched in three games and allowed just one run.

    The third part of Wildcat pitching is redshirt senior Jennifer Martinez. She has also shown to be another force in the Wildcats’ bullpen serving, as Candrea put it, the “”mop-up pitcher”” for Arizona in six games so far this season. Candrea has been able to change up the style of Arizona’s pitching game as of late.

    “”Martinez did an outstanding job coming in relief and giving them a different look,”” Candrea said. “”That’s been a blessing.””

    Although Martinez currently fills this role for the Wildcats, Candrea has expressed his interest in making Martinez an addition to the rotation.

    It takes two to tango

    Both Akamine and Sisk agree that two is better than one when it comes to lasting the entire softball season. Instead of fighting for the title of No. 1, both pitchers have the team’s best interest at heart and support each other in and out of the circle.

    “”Me and Sarah, we have each other’s backs,”” Sisk said. “”She’s very good (in the circle). You need two good pitchers to go to the end.””

    Although the pitching role for the Wildcats was shared between Sisk and Mowatt last year, Mowatt pitched 199 more innings than Sisk. This season, the duties have been split almost exactly between Sisk and Akamine.

    Akamine agreed that the duties need to be shared this year.

    “”I think we’re a good combination because she’s always backing me up, and I know that if I mess up she’s going to be right there to come in for me,”” Akamine said.

    Pitching coach brings added confidence

    Another new look for the Wildcats this year is pitching coach Teresa Wilson. Wilson joined the Arizona coach staff in October 2008 and has brought a new grading system to the pitchers that rates how well they’re doing. This evaluation system is similar to Candrea’s approach to hitting for the team, and the results are beginning to show in games.

    “”They’re making the steps that they need to become more affective,”” Candrea said. “”I tip my hat to Teresa. She puts a lot of work in during the week to prepare them.””

    Candrea’s confidence in his new pitching coach comes from her experience on the field and as a coach. Wilson is a former All-American pitcher and has coached for Oregon, Minnesota, Washington and, most recently, Texas Tech.

    “”I don’t really consider Teresa as a new pitching coach. I have a lot of confidence in her and what she’s done,”” Candrea said. “”Now it’s just a matter of going out and seeing where we’re at and making adjustments from there.””

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