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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats open up at Kajikawa Classic

Wildcats open up at Kajikawa Classic

Starting the season slow isn’t something the Arizona softball team is accustomed to doing.

The Kajikawa Classic and the No. 1 Wildcats’ regular season begins Thursday night when Arizona meets Indiana at 6:30 in Tempe. Arizona will play double-headers with Utah and Nebraska on Friday, and No. 19 Texas A&M and No. 6 Oklahoma on Saturday before finishing up with Cal Poly on Sunday.

This year’s Kajikawa Classic features more talent than any other in recent memory — a test that head coach Mike Candrea welcomes early on in the season.

“”I think this team right now needs that,”” Candrea said of the talent at this year’s tournament. “”We need to find out where we’re at right now. I’m very pleased with the schedule.””

The 2010 tournament only featured one other ranked team besides the Wildcats.

Northwestern sat at the then-No. 17 position, while the Wildcats were tabbed at the then-No. 4 position.

Arizona’s matchup with Oklahoma will be the biggest test of the weekend. Besides the top-10 rankings matchup, the Sooners and pitcher Keilani Ricketts took the Wildcats to the brink in their last meeting at the 2010 Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif. Arizona escaped with a 4-3 win. Oklahoma made it to the Super Regionals of the 2010 NCAA Tournament before being knocked out by Washington.

Arizona has the fourth toughest schedule in the nation, due to playing in the Pacific 10 Conference and the numbers of tournaments the Wildcats are participating in.

The rankings aside, players said the desire to start the season was what they were more looking forward to. After five straight weeks of practice, the Wildcats said they were anxious to get on the field.

“”We’ve put in all the work that we can right now,”” said senior left fielder Brittany Lastrapes. “”It’s just really exciting, and we’re anxious to get out there right now.””

Ace Kenzie Fowler will also debut her new pitching style this weekend. Fowler adjusted her windup and follow through due to the number of illegal pitches called against her in the 2010 Women’s College World Series. The sophomore has been throwing bullpen consistently during Arizona’s pre-season practices after taking most of the summer off to rest her arm.

“”You can only take so much practice for so long,”” Fowler said. “”But that’s just part of amping up for the season.

“”While returning players were confident about their chances to make it through the tournament unscathed, Candrea said the weekend would answer other questions for the team, like the state of the shortstop position and how well freshman pitcher Shelby Babcock would perform in her Arizona debut.

Candrea wouldn’t name a starter at shortstop, but did say that he would rotate a handful of players to get a better idea of who would take command for the rest of the season.

“”I’m looking for someone that can do 100 percent of the routine plays,”” Candrea said. “”I really don’t care whether they hit a buck fifty (.150) right now.””

The tournament also provides the opportunity to get the first look at Babcock, who Candrea said would split time with Fowler this season.

“”She needs confidence, and the one thing I do know about confidence is that performance breeds confidence,”” Candrea said. “”She hasn’t had that game maturity yet that she’s going to need to develop. And the only way you get that is by playing games.””

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