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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Pitching, chemistry fuels 2010 season”

Talent goes a long way. So does having a selfless team.

When the Arizona softball team entered the 2010 season, the Wildcats knew they would be infusing some raw talent into the roster. However, they didn’t quite know how that talent would develop, nor how well the veterans would mesh with the new players.

With six games remaining in the regular season — three at No. 19 Oregon and three at home versus No. 6 UCLA — the No. 4 Wildcats (40-8, 10-5 Pacific 10 Conference) have developed into a dangerous unit, never sliding past the No. 3 ranking in the weekly ESPN.com softball poll until this week.

“”This is the team I’ve gotten along with most in my four years,”” said senior K’Lee Arredondo. “”It’s like one big family. I think that just makes us closer and makes us a better team.

“”It’s really exciting to see how far that takes us this year.””

The Wildcats have had admirable and somewhat successful appearances against top-ranked teams, both inside and outside the conference. Splitting with a talented Missouri team and winning series against ranked teams like ASU, California and Stanford have given head coach Mike Candrea’s team reason to believe the postseason could have similar results.

Their success leans greatly on team chemistry.

After being swept by No. 1 Washington near the beginning of the Pac-10 schedule, Candrea made his team iron out their differences in a sit-down talk in the outfield of Hillenbrand Stadium. In the fall semester, he held a session with a sports psychologist.

His tactics have appeared to work, and it’s shown on the diamond.

“”We’re hitting strides at the right time,”” said freshman ace Kenzie Fowler. “”We’ve won three series in a row so that’s real huge. We’re definitely kind of getting there. We’re not there yet, but we’re making strides in getting there.””

Now, Arizona has the opportunity to play itself into hosting NCAA Regional or Super Regional play at Hillenbrand.

“”We want to be here,”” Fowler said. “”We don’t want to look too far ahead, but we do want to host.””

And it’s hard not to look too far down the road, especially with Candrea’s positive outlook at this point. He says the team has more pieces of the puzzle together than not.

“”I think we’re about as ready as we can be right now,”” said outfielder Brittany Lastrapes.

End of the season awards

With their much-improved chemistry, the team has put together several newcomers who’ve made immediate impacts. Here’s a rundown of season awards through this point in the season, as chosen by the Daily Wildcat softball beat writers:

MVP: Kenzie Fowler

With six games remaining, the freshman has thrown for a 29-5 record and a 1.24 ERA. Opponents have only hit .147 off her pitches and Fowler has even given the Wildcats an offensive punch in spot at-bats, hitting .381 — that could come in handy during the postseason.

Newcomer of the Year: Brigette Del Ponte

Freshman third baseman Brigette Del Ponte blasted herself onto the NCAA scene. After missing the fall semester, Del Ponte is now hitting .359 and to this point leads Division I with 1.41 RBIs per game. She has 65 total RBIs on the year.

X-Factor: K’Lee Arredondo

The senior leader made it a point that chemistry was the biggest fix coming into the season. Often referred to the Wildcats’ leader by her teammates, Arredondo is currently hitting .369 and is a close third on the team in hits.

Gold Glove: Baillie Kirker

As a freshman, Kirker didn’t see the success she expected on the plate, but she manned first base without recording an error from the season opener on Feb. 12 until an April 23 game against Oregon State.

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