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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball begins defense of back-to-back titles

    Arizona first baseman Corinna Gonzalez throws during ground ball drills in the Wildcats practice yesterday at Hillenbrand Stadium. The No. 1 Wildcats begin the defense of their back-to-back national titles today when they open up play in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe against Notre Dame.
    Arizona first baseman Corinna Gonzalez throws during ground ball drills in the Wildcats’ practice yesterday at Hillenbrand Stadium. The No. 1 Wildcats begin the defense of their back-to-back national titles today when they open up play in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe against Notre Dame.

    Eight Women’s College World Series titles – including the last two – leaves nothing left for the No. 1 softball team to prove, right?

    Not so much.

    The top-ranked Wildcats begin their trek tonight in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe in an effort to bring the third consecutive national championship to Tucson, but the road back to Oklahoma City may be bumpier than expected.

    Arizona still has an assortment of questions that have yet to be answered, including how the Wildcats will adjust to interim head coach Larry Ray while head coach Mike Candrea prepares the U.S. softball team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

    Nevertheless, the Wildcats remain confident that playing on the last day of the season will be their eventual destination.

    “”This is always an anxious time. I am very curious to see how this team comes out and what type personality they take on,”” Ray said. “”Right now it is pretty exciting. I just think this team could be one of the best offensive teams we have ever had.””

    The Wildcats’ will face Notre Dame and Texas Tech tonight, heading into a relatively difficult slate Saturday against No. 6

    Northwestern and No. 3 Texas A&M. They will round out the weekend against Southern Utah and Nevada on Sunday.

    Ray is certainly looking for better results than the last time he took over in Candrea’s absence in 2004, as it was the only time since 1987 that Arizona didn’t make it to the Women’s College World Series.

    But one of Arizona’s main areas of focus may be inside the
    pitchers circle.

    Standout hurler Taryne Mowatt, who undoubtedly had one of the more magical seasons for an Arizona pitcher last year, struggled in the Classic last year when the Wildcats opened the season.

    The senior, who registered a 42-12 record with a 1.46 ERA in 2007, suffered two of those losses in the Kajikawa Classic, as she gave up two walk-off home runs on consecutive days to send Arizona back to Tucson with an unsatisfying 4-2 record to begin the season.

    As many know well, Mowatt redeemed herself for her rough start and a reoccurrence of last year’s struggles is not something she is anticipating, as her focus is completely on returning to last year’s postseason form.

    “”I’m expecting to win every game that I pitch,”” said Mowatt, who was named last year’s WCWS Most Outstanding Player. “”This weekend always proves to be a tough weekend for me. …I don’t really think about (the struggles last year in the tournament) and this year I am sure I will do good things and it will definitely be better than last year.””

    Ray said this weekend will be a good opportunity for him to evaluate some of the position battles the Wildcats are still feeling out, including the second base race that is still neck-and-neck between sophomore Sarah Akamine and freshman Victoria Kemp.

    With six games over a span of few days, Ray said it was the perfect chance to interchange players at different positions and assess who will give the Wildcats the upper hand at each location.

    Ray said Akamine will start at second base today while freshman reserve pitcher Lindsey Sisk will also get a considerable amount of time to “”get her feet wet.””

    “”I told the team (Thursday night) that I am out to win every game this weekend,”” Ray said. “”I want to get some players some experience and the kids that are battling for a spot are going to get an opportunity, so that is my main objective.””

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