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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Controlling their own destiny

Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat

For the No. 3 Arizona softball team to play as well outside the state as it does within, head coach Mike Candrea wants his players to do anything necessary to feel comfortable.

Even if that means taking Hillenbrand Stadium on the road.

“”Whether you have to bring some dirt from Hillenbrand and bring it on the road, sprinkle it down and feel that you’re at home, you have to do it,”” Candrea said. “”I told them we have to win on the road. We have to go out and play a hot team with Cal.””

Playing away from home for the next two weekends, the Wildcats (38-7, 8-4 Pacific 10 Conference) will need to perform well to ensure they will play some portion of the offseason at Hillenbrand. That road mission begins today at 3 p.m. against No. 16 California (35-13, 5-7) in Berkeley, Calif. the first of a three-game weekend set against the Golden Bears.

With three Pac-10 series remaining before the postseason selections, Arizona could solidify a favorable position by winning at least two of the three games in each series, all of which are against top-25 opponents ­— Cal, No. 18 Oregon and No. 6 UCLA.

Appearing content with the season’s accomplishments, Candrea foresees that his 2010 softball squad has the talent to make a successful postseason run.

“”I feel good about this team,”” he said. “”I feel good where we’re at. I feel like we’re putting some pieces together.

“”Sometimes my high expectations overload them a little bit, but in reality, they’re here because I think that I don’t see what they are today but what they are down the road,”” he added. “”You’ve got to continue to push.””

The Golden Bears lead the Pac-10 with a 1.50 ERA. Pitcher Valerie Arioto has a 2.40 personal ERA but has done more damage at the plate. She’s the nation’s second-most walked batter and boasts a .356 batting average.

Arioto is aided by speedy sophomore Jamia Reid, who is second in the NCAA in stolen bases.

In the visiting dugout, the Wildcats are the highest scoring team in the nation, averaging eight runs per game. But it won’t be the offense that catapults Arizona into the postseason and into the Women’s College World Series.

“”Offensively, I feel pretty good that we have balance throughout our line-ups,”” Candrea said. “”But on the other hand … it starts with pitching and you have to play good defense.

“”I don’t think we take enough pride in our defense as we do in our offensive side of our game.””

And to keep their swagger from the past two weeks’ home games — Arizona outscored Stanford and Oregon State 55-10 — the Wildcats will need to act like they have the Hillenbrand Stadium crowd behind them.

“”We just do the best we can to feel like we’re at home,”” said senior shortstop K’Lee Arredondo. “”I know me personally, if I hear the crowd cheering I just think they’re cheering for us. If you can kind of think that way then it kind of gets you motivated.””

Barring setbacks due to injury, the Wildcats feel that their potential is endless. However, reacting positively to setbacks on the road will be an important problem to overcome, especially after getting swept by a No. 1 Washington squad in Seattle.

“”The next three weeks are going to define who we are and how far we go,”” Candrea said.

“”We’re in control of our own destiny.””

Quick hits

• Second baseman Kristen Arriola bought a new blue mouth guard after getting hit in the lip during Sunday’s pregame warm-ups, adding to a recent trend by the infielders, according to Arredondo.

• Despite a recent slump, freshman Brigette Del Ponte still leads the NCAA in RBIs per game, coming in with 1.35 per contest.

• Arizona is currently the No. 17 team in the NCAA for fielding percentage.

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