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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Ground game needs retrieving

    Mike Christy/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Wildcat softball downs the Cardinal on a run-rule 12-4 victory Friday night at Hillenbrand Stadium.
    Mike Christy
    Mike Christy/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Wildcat softball downs the Cardinal on a run-rule 12-4 victory Friday night at Hillenbrand Stadium.

    The weekend of softball ended on a high note for No. 7 Arizona as it won Sunday’s game 11-0 against Washington. The overall feel for the last home series for the Wildcats, however, was one of disappointment.

    The offense failed to rally twice against the aces of No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Washington.

    “”If you could face great pitching every night, your database develops and you’re great at it,”” said UA head coach Mike Candrea.

    This is the hope for the Wildcats as the season winds down and the fight for the final eight spots for the Women’s College World Series begins. So far this season, this thinking has worked for Candrea’s team. The more Arizona (37-11, 9-4 Pacific 10 Conference) faces quality pitching, the better it gets.

    The first time the Wildcats faced Washington (35-9, 8-6), the Huskies’ ace, Danielle Lawrie, recorded a no-hitter. The second time the Wildcats faced Lawrie they recorded four hits, though they still fell short of the ultimate goal: victory.

    “”When you get in good games with good pitching you need to be able to make adjustments at the plate, and you’ve got to be able to match them pitch for pitch,”” Candrea said.

    The reality for Arizona is that against tough pitching, the offense has been unable to string together timely hits. The Wildcats often threatened in their weekend games, but were unable to actually convert those opportunities into runs.

    The reality of the stalled offense hit the players, especially in their one run loss to UCLA (35-8, 10-4) during the weekend.

    “”We started over-thinking it, trying to do too much instead of just trying to get base hits,”” said left fielder Brittany Lastrapes.

    Third baseman Jenae Leles added: “”We have to make adjustments, clear our heads and play simple softball.””

    Trying to do too much during one at-bat has been a downfall this season for Arizona. With a lineup stacked with players who are capable of timely and powerful hitting, the focus needs to be getting on base. Trust in teammates and faith that the rest of the order will produce is what Arizona needs to be able to put up big scores.

    Scoring is what gives the Wildcats their deadly potential. When Arizona scores less than five runs its record is 1-10. The Wildcats need to find a way to win by a large margin. This season, most of their large victories have been on the backs home runs. The Wildcats lead the nation in homeruns with 111 and are threatening to break the NCAA all-time record of 126 long balls.

    Against better pitching, however, the homers don’t come and neither do the victories.

    “”We can’t rely on those,”” said national home run leader Stacie Chambers, “”especially when it comes down to close games.””

    Another key ingredient for Arizona wins is offensive production. Even if the long ball doesn’t fly out for the Wildcats, Arizona still needs sustained production to be successful. When Arizona out-hits its opponent, it is 31-0. When it is out-hit by their opponents, it’s 3-10.

    The key lies in making adjustments to the pitcher and being prepared to take advantage of every opportunity. In good softball games the advantage goes to the team who capitalizes on their opponent’s mistakes.

    Some players have had success against the quality pitching. Lastrapes rounded out the weekend with six hits.

    “”I think some people were swinging for the fences, but you don’t really have to,”” Lastrapes said.

    The Arizona coaching staff has tried to emphasize the importance of the fundamentals of softball – and for Arizona, that’s being on the ground. A return to the ground game for Arizona is what is in the forecast for the rest of the season.

    “”I’ve said all along the game is played on the ground,”” Candrea said. “”Find a way to play the game sixty feet at a time. Get people on base and good things can happen for us.””

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