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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Leles comes up clutch

    Third baseman Jenae Leles hits the walk-off home run, her third on the season, in Arizonas 8-7 win over Missouri March 4 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Leles has been clutch for the Wildcats so far this season, while boosting her average to .259 and her slugging percentage to .529.
    Third baseman Jenae Leles hits the walk-off home run, her third on the season, in Arizona’s 8-7 win over Missouri March 4 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Leles has been clutch for the Wildcats so far this season, while boosting her average to .259 and her slugging percentage to .529.

    For Jenae Leles, clutch hits have been a dime a dozen this season.

    The sophomore third baseman leads the Wildcats with six game-winning hits so far this year and is developing into yet another weapon in an already formidable lineup.

    That is a far cry from a year ago when, as a freshman starting at the hot corner, she went 1-for-19 at the plate in the Women’s College World Series, a .053 average.

    Her slump stemmed from a tendency to get too down on herself when things weren’t going well, UA head coach Mike Candrea said.

    The Wildcats wound up winning the National Championship, the seventh in school history, and Leles used some advice from her head coach to help prepare her for this season.

    “”Coach told me, ‘Be your own best friend’ and not to get so down on myself and not get so frustrated, to just relax.”” Leles said.

    Candrea said he has seen an improvement in confidence from his young third baseman.

    “”She’s matured a lot since the College World Series last year,”” Candrea said. “”She still sometimes gets down on herself, but the time that she spends dumping on herself has gotten shorter, so that’s a good thing.

    “”Athletes always evaluate, but being competitive can be a double-edged sword because being productive can sometimes come from being positive.””

    Ironically, Leles’ only hit of the World Series was the game-winner in Arizona’s 6-0 defeat of Tennessee, setting the stage for this season’s heroics.

    Already this season Leles has been the sole provider of offense in two Arizona wins, including a 2-1 victory over then-No. 7 Michigan.

    In that game the Wildcats trailed 1-0 in the fourth inning when Leles came to the plate with two on and two out. She came through with a single to right, plating both baserunners and giving Arizona perhaps its biggest win of the season.

    But undoubtedly her biggest hit came on a blustery Sunday afternoon in early March.

    Trying to wrap up a sweep of a three-game home series against Missouri, Arizona struggled for much of the game and entered the bottom of the seventh inning deadlocked in a 7-7 tie.

    Leles led off for the Wildcats and hit the first pitch she saw over the left-field fence for a walk-off home run. The shot was even more impressive considering the 30 mph winds that blew during her at-bat, causing Candrea to remark afterward that he did not think he was going to see a ball go out of the ballpark that day.

    “”She’s a clutch hitter,”” catcher Callista Balko said. “”In big games she comes up with the big hit.””

    But Leles hasn’t just been coming up with big hits for the Wildcats; her numbers are up across the board, as her average ballooned 40 points to .259 and she has only one less home run so far this season than she did all of last year.

    Her slugging percentage has also skyrocketed from just .393 to .529, giving Candrea the confidence to start her at the clean-up spot for parts of this season.

    “”Confidence is just the biggest thing for her,”” center fielder Caitlin Lowe said. “”Last year she didn’t have as much pressure on her but this year we really need her and she has definitely done a good job.””

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