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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Kajikawa marks softball’s beginning

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat
The UofA Ladies Softball Team had practice which included a scrimmage this Saturday, February 6th, 2010 at the Hillenbrand Stadium.
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UofA Ladies’ Softball Team had practice which included a scrimmage this Saturday, February 6th, 2010 at the Hillenbrand Stadium.

Anxiety only explains part of it. With a phenom ace in the circle, and one of the all-time best offenses in college softball not expecting any drop-off from 2009, the No. 4 UA softball team will open its season at the Kajikawa Classic tournament with curiosity.

They want to know how far they’ll go this season.

“”The butterflies are coming, but I’m excited,”” said freshman pitcher Kenzie Fowler. “”Really, we’ve been working since beginning of September. This is what we’ve been working for, I think we’re ready for it.””

Not only is it the Wildcats’ first competition outside Hillenbrand Stadium walls, but the tournament taking place today through Sunday will mark the beginning of what head coach Mike Candrea sees as a season full of potential.

“”This year is going to be a year. Like I told the kids, we’re going to have some challenges along the way,”” Candrea said. “”But I really feel good that we have the pieces to the puzzle, that we just need to find the right pieces.””

The Wildcats will face six teams in three days at the tournament in Tempe, beginning today against Western Michigan University. Highlighting the trip will be match-ups with Purdue University and No. 17 Northwestern  University of the Big Ten Conference.

Arizona will also play North Dakota State, University of Nevada and Cal State, Fullerton, in games at both the Tempe Sports Complex and ASU’s Farrington Stadium. Five of the six teams Arizona will face reached the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

“”I think it’s a good field that’s going to test us,”” Candrea said of the tournament. “”At this stage in the game, in this program, that’s what we need. You can sit back and pad your stats and not play anyone for too much and kind of hide, but it catches up to you.””

As usual, Candrea won’t announce the starting nine players until game-day, but it’s expected that Fowler will make at least half of the starts in the circle. Pitcher Sarah Akamine, who is coming back from off-season back surgery, will likely start the games that Fowler does not.

But Fowler won’t be the only freshman to make her debut.

Other freshman starters could include Matte Haack at third base and Baillie Kirker at first base, both of whom Candrea said he is impressed with. He added that sophomore Alicia Banks has shown improvement and could find time at first base as well.

“”I think they’ve all had a pretty good head on their shoulders,”” said senior K’Lee Arredondo of her younger teammates. “”They’re ready for this weekend.””

They might be more than ready. Candrea said his team played about 10 scrimmages throughout fall practices in succession of their fall schedule. That can only help so much after pitchers and hitters learn one another’s tendencies.

“”We’re tired of seeing one another,”” Candrea said. “”It’ll be nice to put someone else in the dugout who doesn’t know our pitches and doesn’t know our hitters.””

Like in past seasons, Candrea won’t take scores, wins or losses as measures of how far his team has to go. The Wildcats, as their ranking shows, have the advantage in talent. What they need to work on will be revealed in Tempe this weekend.

“”(In the fall) we were experimenting, seeing how things would work,”” Fowler said. “”This is where I guess we shine. Now it’s really time to perform and deliver what we’ve been practicing.””


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