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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball prepares for end

    UA redshirt senior Jennifer Martinez prepares to hurl a pitch toward home plate during a 2-1 Arizona loss to UCLA on April 24 at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats will hit the road to face the Oregon schools to close out their regular season.
    UA redshirt senior Jennifer Martinez prepares to hurl a pitch toward home plate during a 2-1 Arizona loss to UCLA on April 24 at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats will hit the road to face the Oregon schools to close out their regular season.

    Most UA students will soon walk away from campus either relieved to be finished with classes or searching for that excuse as to why they failed that accounting test.

    For the Arizona softball team (39-13, 11-6 Pacific 10 Conference), however, the most important part of this year’s Wildcat experience has yet to come.

    The No. 6 Wildcats finish their regular season at the Oregon schools with a 4 p.m. game on Friday at Oregon, a 3 p.m. contest Saturday against Oregon State and then a noon game on Sunday, again versus the Beavers. After that, they can only sit and wait to hear against whom and where they’ll play their NCAA regional games.

    “”Over the years, (the softball selection committee has) done some different things,”” said UA assistant coach Larry Ray. “”To sit and try to figure it out sometimes is kind of pointless.

    “”One year we were a one or a two in the country and they sent all the top teams packing,”” he added. “”You never know.””

    Head coach Mike Candrea knows that motivating his Wildcats in their regular season finale is a must. Early on Tuesday, he sent a text to his players.

    “”He just sent us a text message that said quote, unquote, ‘Let’s go duck hunting and beaver hunting,'”” said senior utility player Sam Banister. “”Me and Jenae (Leles) sent him back a text that said, ‘OK, our shotguns are loaded.'””

    The talented senior class is hoping to add a third national title to their Arizona careers. If they do win it all, this one could arguably be the most difficult – due to the team’s lack of dominating pitching – but Banister wasn’t using that as an excuse to find it acceptable to fold.

    “”When it comes to national championships and titles, I think I’m probably most selfish,”” she said. “”We’ve been ranked number one for however many years we’ve been ranked (number) one and it’s not looking like that’s going to happen, so I guess the only other thing is to win the national championship.””

    The Wildcats have been ranked No. 1 every year since the national polls came out in 1993, but that’s unlikely to happen this year unless Arizona is sitting atop the podium in Oklahoma City.

    That said, Candrea still has the utmost confidence that his team can make a run, assuming the Wildcats play up to their potential, Leles said.

    “”He says that we need to stop the errors and play the full seven innings,”” Leles said. “”We need to stay together as a team and don’t point fingers.””

    Leles admitted that her team knows it will give up runs, making it essential that their offense doesn’t take games off.

    On top of that, the defense cannot commit silly errors, such as the game-defining sixth inning this past weekend, in which Stanford rallied from three down to beat the Wildcats 4-3 after two errors in the inning.

    Against sub-par Oregon teams, Arizona can find its confidence once again and perhaps solidify a home regional or super regional game at Hillenbrand Stadium.

    “”We need to finish strong,”” Ray said. “”After a disappointing weekend, we need to get back on our winning ways. We’d like to play well and hit the regionals on a good note.””

    In the few weeks before regional play begins on May 15, the Wildcats will hope to find their focus and cut down on their mistakes that have cost them big wins.

    “”We just need to bear down,”” Leles said. “”We know that (Candrea) still loves us even though that we don’t play at our potential.

    “”He knows what we can be and what we’re striving to be every weekend and at practice,”” she added. “”If we don’t win the Pac-10 it’s not everything. It’d be great to secure our regional and super regional spot, but to win a national championship ring is much better than a Pac-10 ring.””

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