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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Notes: Softball gears up for World Series

    Notes: Softball gears up for World Series

    Arizona softball doesn’t want its 21st appearance at the Women’s College World Series to be just that – an appearance.

    Last year the Wildcats lost the first two games of the tournament, falling at the hands of UCLA and Alabama. This year, the task does not get easier for Arizona.

    “”We obviously have a tough first game coming at us,”” said outfielder Lauren Schutzler, adding that a competitive Super Regional will help them on Thursday. “”We’re thankful that we had that weekend that we had last weekend.””

    Arizona is slated in the second bracket of the tournament along with No.4 Michigan, No. 5 Alabama and No. 1 Florida, who the Wildcats will face on Thursday, May 28, at 6 p.m. Tucson time.

    The goal for the Wildcats is to continue their run at the Championship game, a feat many thought would not be possible for this year’s Arizona team. Head coach Mike Candrea and Arizona have proven naysayers wrong and are still going strong towards the ultimate goal of playing in the final game of the season.

    Road Warriors

    Willie Nelson’s “”On the Road Again”” should be Arizona’s new theme song. The Wildcats have not played a single postseason game at home in Tucson but instead battled on the road to reach Oklahoma City throughout Regional and Super Regional play. They have not hosted a game this postseason, and played through Louisville, Ky., and Stanford, Calif., to reach the WCWS.

    “”It’s been a journey,”” Candrea said. “”I think the thing about this team is they’ve kind of embraced it.””

    Arizona remained undefeated in Louisville and battled back to beat Stanford after falling 0-1 in a best of three series. Candrea hopes that the experience on the road in the post season will be an advantage once competition starts in tournament play.

    “”Being at home is almost a treat but being on the road is like home right now, which is a good thing going into Oklahoma City,”” said first baseman Sam Banister.

    Added Candrea: “”When you win in those situations, it helps you down the road.””

    Candrea’s edge

    Mike Candrea certainly has the edge when it comes to experience in the WCWS. Arizona returns for the 21st time in 22 years, proving not only the program’s consistency but also the strength of this year’s Wildcat team.

    Last year, the Wildcats were under the command of assistant coach Larry Ray due to Candrea’s involvement with the Olympic team. Although Ray successfully lead the program back to the WCWS, there is still something different with Candrea at the helm.

    “”Coach brings some mystique about him,”” Banister said. “”We always joke about how he plays some sort of softball god out here. Having coach around is definitely a comfort thing.””

    Schutzler agreed with Banister’s assessment.

    “”That’s the advantage,”” Schutzler said. “”We have someone who’s so experienced and he really knows how to motivate us. The words of wisdom he gives us is a whole other edge that other teams don’t have.””

    Who’s the ace?

    Like the Arizona men’s basketball team, many considered Arizona softball to have an off year. With no standout ace, many thought that Arizona’s offensive power would not be enough to carry them into the post season.

    However, the combined efforts of Lindsey Sisk, Sarah Akamine and Jennifer Martinez have led the Wildcats all the way back to WCWS.

    Throughout the season, Candrea has chosen to do something he has rarely had to do in his coaching tenure at Arizona – make pitching changes in the middle of game.

    “”I think the big thing is how we’re going to keep their hitters off balance and how to mix and match,”” he said of his pitching stable.

    Candrea has favored a combination of Akamine and Martinez, keeping hitters off balance with their contrasting styles. With Sisk’s standout performance against Stanford, in which she struck out 14 hitters, he has a lot to consider going into Thursday’s game against Florida.

    “”Well, I think it has given me a little more thought, but I think right now we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.””

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