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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats must improve

The Wildcats softball team is at a crossroads. On one hand, they were the preseason No. 1 team in the country. On the other, they are 0-4 against top-10 teams and have looked far from dominant in many of their recent games. So heading into Pacific 10 Conference play, here are five things the Wildcats need to improve if they are to regain their stature and win head coach Mike Candrea’s 11th Pac-10 Championship.

1. Hit good pitching

The Wildcats are winless against top-10 teams this season, and their batting is a big reason for that. In their six losses this season, Arizona has scored only six total runs. This is particularly glaring in their games against Baylor and Oklahoma, where the UA pitchers held the opposition to three and five runs, respectively.

2. Minimize errors

Kenzie Fowler and Shelby Babcock have combined for 74 earned runs so far this season. The Wildcats have allowed 93 total runs. While this 19 run discrepancy may not seem like much now, it threatens to become a much bigger problem in Pac-10 play where games are often decided by a single run, and one badly timed error can swing a series. Earlier this season, a frustrated Babcock blamed her departure from a game against Pacific on “”too many errors.”” While the Wildcats would win that game once Fowler came in and the defense tightened up, they will not have that luxury for the rest of the season.

3. Get hits from the bottom of the order

The first seven batters of the Wildcats order are solid, with every player hitting better than .300 and three hitters (Brittany Lastrapes, Lauren Schutzler and Karissa Buchanan) over .400. The eight and nine spots — currently occupied in most games by Baillie Kirker and Alex Lavine — are hitting a dismal .191 and .241, respectively. Buchanan, who bats seventh, has reached base 41 times this year and has scored only 23 runs. Arizona cannot afford to let Buchanan — who has the team’s third best on-base percentage among starters — be stranded so regularly.

4. Become mentally tougher

The Wildcats are just 1-5 this season when trailing after four innings. This inability to come back and score runs in late innings shows a lack of mental fortitude that is uncharacteristic of Candrea’s Wildcats. He has indicated that a lack of leadership may be the problem. “”I think we have struggled most of this part in the infield trying to have someone that really knows what to do, feels good about themselves and can really become a leader,”” he said. “”We have a lot of quiet people.”” Conversely, Arizona’s 27-1 record when leading after four innings shows that the team can buckle down and protect a lead.

5. Protect their house

Candrea was probably feeling good about his team’s play at home before spring break. The Wildcats were 10-0 at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium and had an impressive eight games end in run rule victories. Then Baylor — the first ranked team the Wildcats hosted — came to town. Arizona lost two of three games in the series, including an embarrassing 6-0 loss in the first game of the weekend. A successful Pac-10 season for the Wildcats will hinge on Tucson being a place opponents hate to see on the schedule.

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