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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Coaching departure plagues ace

    Michael Fitzpatrick - Sports writer
    Michael Fitzpatrick – Sports writer

    Quick Hits with Fitz

    Calling dominant athletes a machine is so overused that it’s become cliché. But that is exactly what Taryne Mowatt was during the 2007 Women’s College World Series for Arizona.

    She was an untouchable strikeout machine throwing an unfathomable 1,035 pitches in eight games (6-2) over seven days as she led Arizona to its second consecutive national championship and eighth overall.

    She set WCWS records in innings pitched (60) and strikeouts (76), while setting Arizona single-season records in innings pitched (370), strikeouts (522) and victories (42).

    So if last year was her coming-out party, this year she was supposed to be even better, right?

    Not quite.

    This year, Mowatt has struggled to live up to the astronomical expectations that both Wildcat fans and teammates have placed on her and admitted she has even lost her swagger. But the question is why?

    She has certainly earned her status as one of the elite pitchers in a program that has produced such greats as Jennie Finch, Becky Lemke-Blatnick, Alicia Hollowell and former UA pitching coach Nancy Evans.

    It’s the departure of Evans that has had the greatest negative impact on Mowatt’s performance this season.

    Evans, who suddenly announced her resignation as Arizona pitching coach on Dec. 14 after spending 15 seasons at the UA as either a player or coach, gave Mowatt the one thing she currently lacks – a female pitching coach.

    “”I’m very emotional, and when I go out and pitch I pitch with my heart and with my emotions,”” Mowatt said Monday in a one-on-one interview in McKale Center. “”I have a lot of heart when I pitch but I need people to understand the emotional side. Girls are unbelievably emotional and I don’t think guys understand that – they really don’t.

    “”Nancy understood the emotional part of being a pitcher at this level,”” Mowatt added. “”She knows school, relationships and softball are all tied into one and she knew how to approach that.””

    Mowatt has a point. I am not going to pretend to know the intricacies of collegiate athletics, but I do know the benefits of a good coach, especially one who has gone through all the same problems as a collegiate athlete.

    The two have known each other since Mowatt was a sophomore in high school, and when Evans left, so did Mowatt’s primary support system. Evans experienced every peak and valley of being a softball player and also knew a thing or two about pitching.

    Mowatt said she has not heard from Evans, who declined to comment yesterday.

    Mowatt did not develop a close relationship with head coach Mike Candrea until last year and said it is very difficult to talk about personal dilemmas with someone you don’t know as well.

    And for those who believe a coach doesn’t have an impact on their players, look at the numbers – they don’t lie.

    This year Mowatt has an ERA of 2.14. Her highest previous ERA was a 1.80 during her freshman season and that was in only 13 games. In 2006 she had a 1.28 ERA in 27 appearances and last year she had 1.46 ERA in 60 appearances.

    Is it a coincidence that her worst statistical season came following the resignation of Evans? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not. While Evans’ resignation may not be the only factor, it is a major one.

    The question still remains, however, as to where her loss of confidence has come from.

    After last summer, Mowatt’s star power increased 10-fold. It’s reached the point to where people will interrupt her warm-up sessions prior to games to seek autographs and some are even naming their kids after her.

    “”I mean, this year is kind of like a circus,”” Mowatt said. “”I mean, I kind of feel like a caged animal sometimes. I will be warming up in the bullpen and people will be surrounding me and I feel claustrophobic sometimes.””

    That is to be expected and Mowatt admitted she didn’t anticipate how different the increased expectations would be, but that is not an excuse.

    “”I don’t want to say I don’t have confidence, because it’s hard to not have confidence when you have achieved so much as a team two years in a row and you have done this amazing thing,”” Mowatt said. “”But it’s something I need to get back to. I need that fire, that look on my face, the swagger that when hitters look at me they are going, ‘We’re not going to be scoring today,’ and that’s what I’m missing and I need to get that back.””

    For Arizona to have any hope of a national three-peat, Mowatt needs to be 100 percent confident in her abilities and know that she is going to win no matter what. She needs to truly believe that she is better than her opponent and remember what it was like to be the Mow-down Machine.

    Michael Fitzpatrick is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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