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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Mauga mashes way to top of Arizona’s offence

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Arizona softball outfielder Katiyana Mauga (34) follows through on a swing during Arizona’s 10-2 victory over UC Riverside on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Mauga’s power and poise have been driving forces behind Arizona’s dominant offense.

Arizona outfielder Katiyana Mauga arrives an hour early to Hillenbrand Stadium before each home game, gets dressed and then takes a seat on the bench.

The sophomore blares music from her Beats by Dre headphones and stares out onto the field for a couple of minutes. Nothing else going on around her matters.

This is Mauga’s way of reaching tranquility, or in her words, of zoning in before game time.

It’s a simplified mindset, but one that has reaped rewards for Mauga and the Arizona softball team.

The San Diego native, who is known by her teammates as mellow and laconic, brings an unmatched force of tenacity when she steps up to the plate.

Mauga leads the Wildcats with 19 home runs, a mark that ranks third in Division I. One of her homers against Washington nearly cleared the left field bleachers at Hillenbrand Stadium.

“She has two sides,” Arizona infielder Mo Mercado said. “She’s one of those players who is pretty calm, and you build off her personality that day. But when she’s fired up, we definitely feed off of that.”

Mercado knows Mauga as well as anyone on the team. The two played travel softball together as early as eighth grade and were roommates last year.

Mercado has been on both ends of her friend’s competitive streak over the years.

“She’ll take a game of Simon Says and take it into a competition where she wants to win,” Mercado said.

That mentality drives Mauga as she elevates her play to an elite level.

Mauga earned nearly every feasible accolade as a freshman, from USA Softball and NFCA Player of the Week to first team All-Pac-12 Conference.

Most notably, she was the first Arizona player to earn Pac-12 Freshman of the Year since Caitlin Lowe in 2004.

Mauga has nearly matched her home run and RBI totals from last year; there are still four regular-season series left this season. Her .855 slugging percentage leads the Pac-12.

“I think she has progressed more mentally than she has physically,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said. “The more you play the game at this level, the larger your database becomes and the better your decision making is.”

It helps to have some natural power. Mauga has been looked upon as a slugger since her early days of playing softball — she set the San Diego District Division II home run record with 41.

Mauga’s strength at the plate is something she said she’s “just got used to.”

“We work hard in the weight room, but [Mauga] came here with a strong upper body and quick hands,” Candrea said. “She’s always been a good hitter, it’s just a matter of her [making] adjustments when people are trying to make adjustments against her.”

Mauga’s production will be counted on all the more as the Wildcats enter a key stretch of the season that could determine whether they earn a national seed for the Women’s College World Series. 

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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