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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Top-ranked Devils come to Tucson

    Arizona pitcher Preston Guilmet rocks back in a 4-3 extra-inning loss to No. 23 UCLA on March 28 at Sancet Stadium. The Wildcats have lost 10 of their last 13 games and are unranked after starting the season ranked No. 1.
    Arizona pitcher Preston Guilmet rocks back in a 4-3 extra-inning loss to No. 23 UCLA on March 28 at Sancet Stadium. The Wildcats have lost 10 of their last 13 games and are unranked after starting the season ranked No. 1.

    Arizona vs. No. 1 Arizona

    The No. 8 Arizona softball team usually strolls into Hillenbrand Stadium around 2 p.m. on most weekdays for practice, then the players stretch and chat among themselves before getting ready to start about 20 minutes later.

    Yesterday the players entered the stadium in a more business-like manner, as interim head coach Larry Ray was adamant about starting practice no later than 2:10.

    You could say there’s a sense of urgency at Arizona as it enters into perhaps the most crucial stretch of the Pacific 10 Conference schedule tonight at 7, when it hosts No. 1 ASU for its conference home opener.

    “”This is going to be a huge week for us – probably the biggest week of the season – so we need to work hard this week,”” said senior pitcher Taryne Mowatt. “”We just want to get on a roll and finish a weekend from start to finish.

    “”We were rolling through last weekend, but then we hit a rough spot and we weren’t able to get going again,”” Mowatt added of the team’s 2-1 finish in Oregon. “”I think our biggest concern is to get us going and then keep going.””

    Arizona (27-10, 4-2 Pac-10) started the year off as top-ranked squad in the nation, but a series of losses to lower-ranked and unranked opponents cost the Wildcats the right to sit atop the rankings. Now it’s ASU (41-2, 5-0) who is ranked No. 1.

    Whenever playing the No. 1 team, there is added pressure, but the Wildcats are more focused than ever for their meeting with the Sun Devils, as conference standings are on the line.

    “”It is nice that they are No. 1,”” Ray said. “”It has been a long time since we have played (No. 1) and I think the role has been reversed a little bit, but it’s good because they are a very good team and we are looking forward to playing them.””

    For sophomore shortstop K’Lee Arredondo, a native of the Phoenix area, there are extra incentives to beating the Devils.

    “”It’s just so big and my whole family graduated from ASU so if we don’t win it’s going to be one of those things you hear about for the rest of the season,”” Arredondo said. “”I think this weekend is our (time for) big wins. We really need to win to pretty much gain a spot in the Pac-10 this weekend. Every game counts no matter what.””

    If anything can be expected about the matchup, it’s that it will most likely turn into a pitchers’ duel. Both teams’ hurlers are seniors and their respective team’s success is contingent on their performance.

    Mowatt (16-7) has returned to her old form after a bumpy start, as she has gotten back to posting her usual numbers from her outstanding season last year, when she was named the Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player.

    She’s posted a 1.67 ERA thus far this season while adding a team-high 239 strikeouts in 155 innings pitched.

    “”I feel good right now, everything seems to be working,”” Mowatt said. “”Hopefully this will turn into the same story as last year.””

    Winning will be a much taller order when the Wildcats face off against ASU ace Katie Burkhart, who is regarded as one of the better pitchers in the Sun Devils’ history. So far this season, she has done nothing but enchance her image with outstanding play.

    Burkhart has undeniably been the heart and soul of ASU’s squad, as she has posted a 22-2 record while boasting a 0.62 ERA. In Burkhart’s 159 innings pitched, she has struck out 276 batters.

    Nevertheless, the confident Arizona batters aren’t too worried about Burkhart, knowing they are perfectly capable of putting runs on the board.

    “”I personally think pitching is the only thing carrying them now,”” Arredondo said. “”We can hit her. When we come together we can hit – you’ve seen that this year. I definitely think we have a lot more pop. We lost speed (since last season) but our bats have definitely taken care of that this year.

    “”They think they are pretty much the best of the best right now and I think otherwise because of who they have played this season,”” Arredondo added. “”I think rankings during the season don’t really mean a whole lot personally. It’s about who comes out on top at the end. We weren’t ranked first for a lot of the year last year, and who came out on top?””

    Extra bases

    Mowatt was named the Pac-10 Softball Pitcher of the Week for April 1-7, commissioner Tom Hansen announced yesterday.

    The accolade was Mowatt’s eighth career Pitcher-of-the-Week honor, bringing Arizona’s total tally to 108.

    Mowatt allowed just one earned run in 17 1/3 innings over a three-game span against the Oregon schools last weekend. She got a win against Oregon State Friday and one against Oregon Saturday – a one-hit, 5-1 victory. She struck out six of the 10 batters she faced in a relief appearance against the Ducks Sunday.

    “”It’s definitely exciting to get recognized for the work you have done,”” Mowatt said. “”But you can’t get Pitcher of the Week without your team winning.””

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