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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball kicks off Pac-10 play vs. Wash.

    Kristie Fox hits a 3-run home run to right center in the sixth inning of a 6-2 win over Creighton on March 6. Fox went 0-for-8 in the next series against Baylor, in which the Bears won two of three games, but she hit a ninth-inning walk off home run to beat Baylor 2-1 on Thursday.
    Kristie Fox hits a 3-run home run to right center in the sixth inning of a 6-2 win over Creighton on March 6. Fox went 0-for-8 in the next series against Baylor, in which the Bears won two of three games, but she hit a ninth-inning walk off home run to beat Baylor 2-1 on Thursday.

    The No. 5 Arizona softball team kicks off Pacific 10 Conference play with what head coach Mike Candrea has called the most difficult road trip of the season.

    The Wildcats first travel to Seattle to take on No. 16 Washington today at 1 p.m. before flying to Los Angeles to battle No. 14 UCLA tomorrow and Sunday.

    “”It’s not one of the hardest (road trips), it is the hardest,”” Candrea said. “”The biggest thing is just the turnaround. You have the long flight to Seattle and then the long flight back to L.A. and then you have to turn around and play.””

    Senior center fielder Caitlin Lowe, a veteran of three Washington-UCLA road trips, agreed.

    “”It’s definitely the hardest trip to make just because you have the two plane flights and just a short time in each place,”” she said. “”It’s kind of a whirlwind trip, and I’m glad we’re getting it over with in the beginning (of conference play).””

    The awkward weekend pairing of Washington and UCLA occurs because the Pac-10 Conference has only eight NCAA softball teams. Washington State and USC don’t field teams.

    Arizona swept the Huskies last season, winning three games by a 13-1 scoring margin. But departed senior and four-time All-American Alicia Hollowell was on the mound for thecontest, and the Wildcats won’t have the luxury of her services this time around.

    UA pitcher Taryne Mowatt will likely be called on to shut down the Huskies and sweet-swinging first baseman Dena Tyson. Tyson, a senior, is hitting .415 and has eight home runs and 28 RBIs.

    But Mowatt has been dominant of late, winning six of her last seven starts. Her record stands at 17-6 with an ERA of 1.83.

    But it is the Wildcat hitters that will face the biggest challenge in Seattle.

    The Huskies are likely to start pitcher Danielle Lawrie. The sophomore is 13-3 this season and boasts a 0.83 ERA. She has struck out 217 batters in 109 2/3 innings pitched, an average of 14.7 strikeouts per seven innings pitched.

    “”Washington has a great offensive team, and they have a great pitcher in Danielle Lawrie,”” Lowe said. “”We’re going to have a tough time scoring lots of runs, but that’s what we need to do to support our pitching.””

    The going won’t get any easier against the Bruins. UCLA swept Arizona last season and narrowly beat the Wildcats to claim the Pac-10 crown.

    The Bruins’ offense is a potent one, as evidenced by their conference-leading 40 home runs. Their balanced attack features six players with 20 or more RBIs.

    Contrast that with Arizona, which is led by shortstop Kristie Fox’s 35 RBIs. Only two other Wildcats, second baseman Chelsie Mesa and third baseman Jenae Leles, have cracked the 20-RBI barrier.

    The real season is only beginning for the Wildcats. Seven of the eight Pac-10 teams are ranked among in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll’s top 20 teams, giving Arizona a taste of the level of competition it will be facing in the Women’s College World Series this June.

    “”I would say it’s the hardest conference in the nation for softball,”” said catcher Callista Balko. “”But it’s good for us, it prepares us for the World Series, and I think we are lucky to have something like that to go off of and learn about.””

    For the Wildcats, the road to a second-consecutive national championship begins this weekend.

    “”It’s always a big challenge for us to see where we are at, and like I told the kids, it’s a great trip when you’re winning and it’s not a very good trip when you get beat,”” Candrea said. “”So hopefully, it will be a good trip for us.””

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