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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball flying under the radar

    Two weeks ago, the Arizona softball players were in disarray. They were trying to find themselves, looking for that secret recipe to bring a wealth of talent together.

    Now, their team looks impossible to stop.

    They’ve gone from a group of people who had all the talent in the world to a unit now putting its foot in the door for championship consideration. If Arizona pull off three wins this weekend against Washington and UCLA, it will be officially kicking that door down.

    “”I think that people can talk about us now,”” said sophomore outfielder Brittany Lastrapes. “”… I think (critics) sell us short. We’re going to prove them all wrong.””

    That’s a statement of confidence, and it’s spreading like wildfire throughout the dugout.

    It’s a team that’s driven by the naysayers who proclaimed the Wildcat defense wouldn’t hold up throughout the season. But just as the offense has settled into a rhythm, the defense has begun to solidify behind rising pitcher Sarah Akamine, who is beginning to shine.

    “”I always said that performance breeds confidence,”” UA softball head coach Mike Candrea said of Akamine. “”You can’t have confidence until you have the performance, and she’s starting to slowly get the performance so I think she’s slowly getting confidence.””

    In my first few months of covering the team, I thought Candrea’s constant sayings such as, “”performance breeds confidence”” and “”it’s a process”” were just coach-speak.

    Of course it’s a process, but give me better quotes!

    Now, I admit my ignorance. I realize why he said, and still says, “”it’s a process,”” in almost every interview. His repetitive phrases are the easy-to-say but most difficult-to-do parts of his job.

    Sure, he can sure teach someone to swing a bat quite well and he knows in-game schemes up and down, but the sudden cohesion on offense reflects Candrea’s mastery of not only coaching a batter, but coaching the person.

    He prides himself on coaching each player as a human being and then bringing them together to reach a common goal. It’s about instilling confidence, and soon enough, Candrea may be able to give that same jolt to the Arizona defense that is supposedly subpar.

    “”The best team is going to be successful this year,”” he said. “”We’re just not quite the team we need to be to be able to compete. I don’t think we have trust in one another sometimes, and so I’ve got to continue to work on that.””

    This perfectionism won’t be satisfied until his team is back in the national title game, and while the players feel like they should be in consideration for a No. 1 ranking right now, he won’t let their egos get over-inflated.

    That apprehension to give himself and his team credit shows how humble and focused of a group Candrea hopes he can sculpt in the coming weeks.

    Critics could argue that the Wildcats schedule still has 10 games for them to lose, not to mention four innings of the ASU game that was rained out.

    To them I say, so what?

    Ten games is enough for Arizona to hit a lull before the post season – ala the Arizona men’s basketball team – and regroup to make a strong Women’s College World Series run. That’s assuming Arizona will hit a lull.

    Their nine losses came in nine separate losing streaks. That’s right, the Wildcats have yet to hit a losing streak greater than one game.

    It’s no secret that the 2009 Wildcats haven’t been too highly thought of nationally. They apparently don’t parallel Candrea’s past teams – you know, the one’s with the on-base speed and the elite pitching.

    Unfortunately for the other Division I schools, there’s one parallel that overrides the differences between the 2009 Arizona softball team and eight national championship teams.

    Mike Candrea: head coach of the Arizona Wildcats.

    – Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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