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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Softball begins title defense

    Taryne Mowatt
    Taryne Mowatt

    Making a statement is a must as the No. 1 Arizona softball team begins its title defense today in Tempe.

    The Wildcats kick off the season at the Kajikawa Classic Friday through Sunday in Tempe, including a championship series rematch with No. 4 Northwestern.

    The highlight of the weekend will undoubtedly be the match up between the two Wildcats. After sweeping Northwestern to claim the school’s seventh national championship, Arizona knows the opposing Wildcats will be looking to even the score this time around.

    “”I definitely think they are going to come out fired up and ready to play because they want revenge,”” said new ace Taryne Mowatt.

    Starting the season strong is crucial for a team with a bull’s eye on its back and the weight of inflated expectations on its shoulders.

    “”We always want to be on top, and I think it’s important to start off with a bang and end with a bang,”” said catcher Callista Balko.

    While being a target is nothing new for an Arizona softball team, a dominant run to the National Championship in 2006 and the return of nearly the entire roster leaves no question as to who will be the team to beat in college softball this season.

    “”We always want to make a statement,”” Candrea said. “”You don’t play this game to come out weak, you play this game to come out strong.””

    And the Wildcats will certainly not be easing back into the fray. After their doubleheader tonight against Ohio St. at 5:30 p.m. and Nevada at 7:30 p.m., they will play two more games Saturday against Florida and Northwestern, beginning at 10:30 a.m., before taking on Wisconsin and No. 14 Texas A& M Sunday morning at 9 a.m.

    Mowatt, a junior, will be taking the mound on opening day as the No. 1 starter for the first time in her career. She is replacing departed senior and four-time All-American Alicia Hollowell.

    Mowatt and her teammates will be hard pressed to duplicate last year’s performance in Tempe. The Wildcats steamrolled through the Classic, outscoring their opponents 37-1 and posting a 6-0 record. Hollowell threw two no hitters and allowed zero runs and only one hit in 18 innings of work.

    Trying to match last year’s effort without Hollowell will be tough, but Balko said she thinks the team has what it takes, albeit in a different fashion.

    “”We just want to prove that even without Alicia we have a strong team,”” she said. “”Last year we had a great tournament and a great start and I’m hoping for that again. You don’t want to speak too soon and jinx it, but I think our hitting team is looking even better than last year.””

    Balko’s thoughts were echoed by several of her teammates. The consensus amongst the team is that while there may be some uncertainty surrounding Arizona’s pitching, the offense, which returns all but one starter, will be one of the most potent in the nation.

    “” We have the offense this year to come out hard, one through nine, and we have pop in the lineup so I definitely think we are going to be putting up the runs,”” said second baseman Chelsie Mesa.

    In what should amount to an embarrassment of riches, the 2007 Wildcats boast several sweet-swinging freshman that should make an immediate impact on the lineup. This is in addition to the return of All-Americans Caitlin Lowe and Kristie Fox.

    “”We’ve got some great new freshmen with some hot bats so hopefully they will add some more runs to the scoreboard,”” Balko said.

    One of those freshmen, K’Lee Arredondo, who will be making her collegiate debut in her hometown, is slated to start in left field and bat second, right in between Lowe and Fox.

    Another freshman, Stacie Chambers, who was expected to start the season as the designated player after an impressive fall, is still out as she deals with the lingering effects of a concussion.

    Chambers was injured when she fouled off a pitch that flew up and hit her in the face in October. She said that she is still awaiting clearance from the team’s doctor and that she doesn’t expect to play for at least “”the next couple weekends.””

    While the team wants to start strong and set the tone for the rest of the season, Candrea said he knows that it is a marathon and not a sprint.

    “”You never know where you’re at until you see and play other opponents,”” Candrea said. “”I’m tired of practice.””

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