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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Gunning for first place

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

It’s the defending NCAA softball champions versus an eight-time Women’s College World Series winner.

A nationally ranked No. 1 facing the No. 2 team in the country.

The reigning national player of the year facing off against a freshman phenom in the circle.

Any way you slice it, all eyes will be on the No. 2 Arizona softball team’s three-game series against No. 1 Washington and last year’s USA Softball Player of the Year, pitcher Danielle Lawrie. The series begins tonight at 6 in Seattle and continues with a 4 p.m. Saturday contest and a finale on Sunday at noon.

Coming off a dominant sweep of UTEP on Wednesday, Arizona (32-4, 2-1 Pacific 10 Conference) had its sights set on beating the Huskies (30-3, 2-1) immediately afterward.

“”I’m nervous, but it’s a good excitement,”” said UA freshman ace Kenzie Fowler. “”It’s going to be a game with a lot of people watching. Just how cool for sports, for women’s sports, for softball to have this kind of game.

“”I’m honored to be in it,”” she added. “”It’s going to be just a test both ways.””

Fowler will be under the microscope this weekend. And as she takes the circle against the Huskies’ Lawrie, the big-name pitchers’ similarities are easy to see.

Lawrie touts a 0.94 ERA to Fowler’s 0.92, and both are good enough to throw into the batting order.

Fowler (21-2) has been a frequent addition to Arizona’s line-up recently, most notably against ASU, when she hit her first career grand slam. On the other side, Lawrie had hit .337 with 11 home runs as of April 5.

Fowler and Lawrie, arguably, are two of the game’s top aces, but the Arizona hitters aren’t overly concerned about Lawrie.

“”Yeah, she no-hit us last year,”” shortstop K’Lee Arredondo said. “”That’s good for her. It’s a new year.””

Last season, Lawrie threw a 12-strikeout, no-hitter in a 6-0 win over the Wildcats in Seattle. She later pitched a four-hit, 12-strikeout game during a 4-1 win in Tucson.

This weekend, the Wildcats will have to adjust immediately to Lawrie, and Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said that individual preparation is key going into the weekend — the Wildcats need to worry about themselves before worrying about Washington.

“”Hitters sometimes wait until they get into the batter’s box before they start thinking about their plan,”” Candrea said. “”There’s some thought that has to go into it.””

And though they racked up 17 hits in two games against UTEP Wednesday, the Wildcats aren’t expecting to light up the scoreboard at a comparable rate against the Huskies.

They realize they’ll have to be patient. They also realize they’ll have to be ready to jump on the few opportunities that arise.

“”From here on out, every at-bat is crucial for us because the pitching is going to get tougher and you have to earn everything you get,”” Candrea said. “”You got to be ready. You’re going to get one good pitch at an at-bat, and you have to be ready to pull the trigger. ””

The feeling on the field after the two-game UTEP sweep wasn’t one of overconfidence after drubbing the Miners. Instead, it was a sense of urgency and a full-speed-ahead approach.

“”It’s not really momentum,”” freshman Brigette Del Ponte said of beating the Miners. “”It’s not the type of pitching we’ll see this upcoming weekend. We’re antsy about going up against Danielle Lawrie.””

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