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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Road test awaits Wildcat softball

    Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

The University of Arizona Softball team mercy kills the Oregon Ducks softball team.
    Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat The University of Arizona Softball team mercy kills the Oregon Ducks softball team.

    The No. 9 Arizona softball team hits the road for the first time during Pacific 10 Conference play to take on two top-10 teams in the Washington Huskies and the UCLA Bruins.

    After sweeping their first conference weekend of the season against Oregon and Oregon State, Arizona (31-7, 3-0 Pac-10) returned to the top 10. The Wildcats have won 13 out of their last 15.

    Their quest to continue to rank among softball’s best will be challenged this weekend as they face No. 3 Washington (28-5, 1-2 Pac-10) for their conference home-opener on Friday at 1 p.m.

    The Huskies are led by Canadian national pitcher Danielle Lawrie (19-3), who sports a .42 ERA and has only allowed two home runs in 151.2 innings pitched. Washington’s last two outings resulted in close losses to Stanford, both on the road.

    With a slew of great performances on the mound expected this weekend, Arizona head coach Mike Candrea knows what he’s up against as the pitching in the conference becomes tougher.

    “”Danielle is probably one of the best pitchers in the country right now,”” he said. “”The better the pitching gets, the tougher it gets to strain consecutive hits back to back.””

    Consecutive hits will be key for the Wildcats, as different conditions will have an effect on the hard-hitting Wildcat offense. Although the long ball has been flying for Arizona at home, the weather conditions on the road may prove tricky for the Wildcats. With cooler temperatures and possible rain on the forecast, Arizona will have to play the short game to produce runs.

    “”You have to do the little things,”” Candrea said. “”You have to lay down bunts, you have to be able to start runners and manufacture runs.””

    The weekend doesn’t get any easier after Washington. Arizona will fly out of Seattle right after the game to head to face No. 7 UCLA (26-6, 1-2 Pac-10) for two games on Saturday and Sunday. The Bruins are led by junior Kaila Shull, who was also named one of the 25 finalists for the Player of the Year Award, along with Wildcats Jenae Leles, Stacie Chambers and Brittany Lastrapes. Shull leads UCLA in RBIs with 44 and slugging percentage of .781.

    Arizona will face Donna Kerr (15-5) in the circle. She is the team leader in innings pitched and has a 2.65 ERA.

    The key for the Wildcats will be their offensive performances against pitchers who will try to stay out of the zone.

    “”I think for our hitters it’s just going to be swinging at the right pitches and really getting deep into the count,”” said outfielder Lauren Schutzler. “”They really just need to have good at bats.””

    Candrea and the coach staff are stressing the importance of playing as a team and especially the outcome of these games. With no room for error in the conference, consistency and competitiveness are key for Arizona’s success in the Pac-10.

    “”There’s very little room for error when you play great teams and great softball,”” Candrea said. “”And right now we’re making way to many errors to try and stay in games like that.””

    Added Shutzler: “”Being in every pitch, being in every game. He wants us to put every bit of energy we have into the games. For us, it’s just really concentrating and being in every game and not giving away any at-bats and not giving away any outs.””

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