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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats lead Pac-10 after three weeks

Koby Gray Upchurch
Koby Gray Upchurch / Arizona Daily Wildcat Softball University of Arizona V Washinton

After a rocky performance in the out-of-conference schedule, the Arizona softball team regained its footing just in time for the Pacific 10 Conference season and now possesses a one-game conference lead.

The Wildcats have tackled all sorts of adversity in their three weeks of conference play, and it appears they will face more of the same in the future.

The team did not start their Pac-10 schedule auspiciously. Coming into a tough opening series against then-No. 12 Stanford, the Wildcats did not have a single win against a top-10 team, having lost to Georgia, Michigan and Oklahoma twice. However, they swept the Cardinal by a combined score of 16-1 and headed home sharing the conference lead with UCLA.

The talk of the team after its wins over Stanford was of a “”new attitude”” and renewed optimism for what had been a disappointing season. The team had held a players-only meeting the week before, which provided a wake-up call and may have turned the team around.

But after only taking two-of-three at Oregon State, it appeared the Wildcats had issues offensively. This had not been a problem before, as the team had recorded 16 mercy-rule victories in its first 38 games. However, Arizona managed only 11 runs against the weakest team in the Pac-10. Even more frustrating was the fact that they had stranded 35 runners in the series.

The offensive woes continued into the Wildcats’ next series against Washington. The team could not muster a single run in the 3-0 defeat, despite outhitting the Huskies 8-6.

What happened next was vintage Mike Candrea — a last-minute lineup change that seemingly solved all problems.

“”I was OK with it because I kind of agreed with his reasoning,”” said outfielder Brittany Lastrapes, who was moved from lead-off to third. “”We just needed something different, it didn’t really matter what it was. It kind of felt weird because I’ve been batting leadoff for so long.””

According to Candrea, one of the motives behind the change and its timing was his philosophy on coaching female players, which he has been cultivating at Arizona for more than 20 years.

“”I’m usually very slow at juggling people around, and a lot of it, I think, is the female mentality,”” he said. “”I think they like stability. I’ve always found over the years that it tends to work better when they kind of know what’s happening. I think we got to a point tonight where we had to try something to change things.””

Candrea’s changes worked as Arizona scored 19 runs in the next two games and won its third straight Pac-10 series.

But while Arizona’s offensive problems appear to be solved for the moment, there are worries to be had on defensel.

The primary reason to stress is the apparent absence of Kenzie Fowler. The sophomore pitcher suffered a concussion when she was hit by a foul ball on Sunday and she may not be available for the crucial series against Arizona State.

“”She’s got a concussion right now,”” said Candrea. “”It’s one of those things that’s day-to-day and it can last days. It can last weeks. It can (last) months. It can last years.””

That leaves freshman Shelby Babcock as the Wildcats’ only pitcher for this weekend against one of the best offensive teams in the country. Babcock has been solid at times but was shaky against the Huskies, allowing six earned runs on eight innings of work.

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