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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    WILDCAT SUMMER SPORTS PREVIEW: Softball winners of six in a row; team aims to keep momentum rolling

    Senior outfielder Autumn Champion throws a ball back to the infield as No. 1 softball defeated ASU 10-0 in Hillenbrand Stadium May 3.
    Senior outfielder Autumn Champion throws a ball back to the infield as No. 1 softball defeated ASU 10-0 in Hillenbrand Stadium May 3.

    By most standards, five years without an NCAA Championship is not a drought. For a program like Arizona, however, five years can seem like an eternity.

    With only four regular-season games left in 2006, the No. 3 Arizona softball team (40-9, 11-6 Pacific 10 Conference) hopes to continue its recent momentum into postseason play. Winners of six straight, including wins over No. 6 ASU (43-12, 7-9), No. 7 California (42-11, 10-8) and two victories over No. 8 Stanford (35-15, 7-11) last weekend at Hillenbrand Stadium, Arizona concludes its season this weekend at home against Oregon (24-24, 4-12) and No. 5 Oregon State (37-10, 9-7).

    “”If we can keep this going through the Oregon series, I think we’re just going to be on a very good high for the postseason,”” said junior center fielder Caitlin Lowe. “”When you’re able to get momentum in the Pac-10, it’s really good because you’re going to drop a lot of games to good teams, so you need to make sure you’re going out on a winning streak going into postseason play.””

    No different than previous years, the Wildcats are expected to be a serious contender in the Women’s College World Series, June 1-7 in Oklahoma City, if they make it that far, as they have 17 of the past 18 years.

    “”I think we’re definitely capable,”” senior ace Alicia Hollowell said. “”We just need to go out and keep doing what we have been lately, just scoring runs and having good pitching.

    “”I think we definitely have everything we need.””

    Hollowell has been the story for Arizona on the mound in 2006, as the three-time All-American has compiled a 21-4 record with a 0.90 ERA. She has 24 complete games, 13 shutouts and 296 strikeouts in 170.1 innings of work.

    Another unlikely hero has emerged on the mound this season for Arizona in sophomore Taryne Mowatt, who has posted similarly impressive numbers. Mowatt is 18-4 with a 1.17 ERA, 18 complete games, nine shutouts and 230 strikeouts in 143.2 innings pitched.

    “”It’s been huge for us,”” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “”I’ve tried in the past to ride one horse, and you can’t do it. I think Taryne gives us an opportunity to have two quality starters for the postseason.””

    Hollowell said it’s been “”awesome”” to have some backup behind her in the rotation.

    “”I don’t think it was a surprise at all that she has done this well,”” Hollowell said. “”She’s very, very capable.””

    The combination of Hollowell and Mowatt should be a potent force for the NCAA Regionals, which Arizona hopes to host from May 19 to 21 as well as the NCAA Super Regionals, May 26-28.

    “”It’s very important to host regionals,”” Lowe said. “”It’s just home-field advantage. You can see that we dropped a lot of Pac-10 games on the road, but then we come home and sweep (last weekend), so it’s really important for us.””

    The six-game winning streak provides the Wildcats with a lot more confidence than they had a month ago, when they lost two games at home to No. 1 UCLA.

    “”That’s the whole goal of competition at this level,”” Candrea said. “”You have to play your best softball at the right time. We have to keep it going, but I feel good right now that we’re hitting on all cylinders, and this is the time of the year that you want to do that.””

    Will 2006 be the year that Arizona renews the label of its historic softball program?

    “”Absolutely. … This year and next year, that’s our plan,”” Lowe said. “”Everybody’s used to coming here and knowing that you’re going to win a championship one of your years. We need to make sure that we just don’t take it for granted and we come out and get the job done.””

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