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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A roller coaster of a softball season

    The 2009 season was a chance at redemption for the Arizona Wildcat softball team (46-17, 13-7 Pacific 10 Conference). After a disappointing Women’s College World Series in June 2008, the Wildcats were looking ahead.

    With the return of head coach Mike Candrea, who had taken a year off to coach the USA national team in the Olympics, a change in attitude hit Hillenbrand Stadium.

    “”It’s going to be an opportunity to try some different things,”” Candrea said at the beginning of the season. “”With this team, you have to somewhere find the balance between their defensive abilities and their offensive abilities.””

    This season, Arizona saw great triumphs in the batters box, and at times, great disappointments in the circle. With no standout ace after the departure of Taryne Mowatt, the Wildcats looked to sophomore pitcher Lindsey Sisk, who was considered the next in a long line of Arizona aces.

    However, the Arizona used a pitching combination of junior Sarah Akamine, senior Jennifer Martinez and a third-string Sisk to get them through the season.

    “”I think I’ve made more pitching changes this year than I’ve ever had to make,”” Candrea said.

    In what many considered to be an off year for typical Arizona softball, the Wildcats proved resilient. Although they were ranked No. 7 in preseason polls, their lack of a standout ace led many to believe that Arizona softball would not make another WCWS appearance.

    “”At the beginning of the year, we have always been known for our dominating pitching but there was a lot of talk that maybe that wasn’t the case with us,”” first baseman Sam Banister said. “”We could have taken it two ways – we could have laid down and died or could have fought, and we chose to fight.””

    Arizona’s saving grace came by way of their offense, which broke both team and individual records throughout the season. Catcher Stacie Chambers led the nation with 31 home runs and 96 RBI’s. Along with outfielder Brittany Lastrapes and third baseman Jenae Leles, the junior was named to an All-American team.

    As a team, the 2009 Wildcats broke the NCAA single season record for home runs previously held by the 2001 Arizona club -134 long balls left the park this season.

    But the bats struggled away from Arizona, especially in the WCWS.

    Before the World Series, the Wildcats were forced to hit the road. A sweep of their weekend games in Regional play in Louisville, Kent., gave Arizona the ticket to face the winner of the Palo Alto, Calif., Super Regional, the Stanford Cardinal.

    In another unfavorable match-up, they won a three-game series against the Cardinal.

    “”In September, I didn’t know whether this team was going to pull it all together to get here,”” Candrea said during a press conference in Oklahoma City, Okla. “”It has been a roller coaster ride for us but a team that has embraced the opportunities.

    Although Arizona made another appearance at the WCWS, their fate was a repeat of their 2008 appearance after being swept in two games.

    “”We just couldn’t quite make the adjustments we needed to offensively,”” Candrea said. “”(Here) you have to get solid pitching, play good defense and you have to get some timely hits.””

    Arizona’s pitching struggled against the Alabama Crimson Tide and allowed 14 runs to cross the plate, aiding for the most lopsided loss in WCWS history. There was no help in the batter’s box for the Wildcats as not a single run crossed the plate for Arizona in either game.

    “”I came to Arizona because I’m going to win a national championship,”” Lastrapes said after the season. “”If I have to push myself harder and push my team even harder I will. I’ll do whatever it takes to win.””

    Extra Bases

    After the conclusion of the 2009 Arizona softball season, pitcher Lindsey Sisk has decided to leave the program. Although it is not known where she will transfer, Sisk will not transfer within the Pac-10 because transferring players must sit out for one year.

    The sophomore, who started the first game for the Wildcats in the WCWS against Florida, asked to be released from her scholarship on June 1. Sisk wanted to be able to see playing time at other positions in games that she did not pitch.

    Her scholarship could be used to recruit another player in the 2009 class. In November, Arizona signed four players to a letter of intent. Brigette DelPonte, Baillie Kirker, Rebecca Tikey, and the 2008 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year Kenzie Fowler will enroll at UA in the fall.

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