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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Learning weekend for ‘Cats

At the midpoint of the season, Arizona softball stands with a national No. 2 ranking and a 25-3 record. With just two weeks left before Pacific 10 Conference season begins the Wildcats headed to the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., to face some tough competition on the road.

Although Arizona completed the five game sweep at the Wildcat Invitational in Tucson, head coach Mike Candrea admitted, “”We were trying to ramp things up and prepare for this weekend. We overmatched our opponents. Not a tremendous competition.””

The competition in Fullerton was considerably tougher.

A 16-game winning streak for Arizona softball was interrupted by No. 5 Michigan over the weekend. The Wildcats would also drop the final game of the tournament 2-1 to unranked Virginia despite the fact that freshman pitcher Kenzie Fowler only gave up one hit in the game — a home run by Virginia’s Nicole Koren.

“”It was one of those lessons. It’s not how many, it’s when,”” Candrea said.

Offensive struggles were the consistent factors in both of the Wildcats’ losses over the weekend.

In the game against the Wolverines, Arizona only had one hit off the bat of left fielder Brittany Lastrapes.

“”It turned out to be a College World Series type game. It was a very hard fought game,”” Candrea said. “”(Michigan’s) Jordan Taylor kept us off-balance.””

Fowler was able to match Taylor’s intensity, keeping Michigan off the scoreboard for seven innings. It wasn’t until extra innings when the Wolverines would take the 1-0 advantage and the win.

“”We did good, we just didn’t get the hits when we needed to against Michigan and Virginia,”” said freshman third baseman Brigette Del Ponte. “”We probably should have won both games, we just didn’t.””

Arizona’s matchup with the University of New Mexico would be decided off the bat of Del Ponte, who leads the team in home runs with 10.

Number 10 flew out of the park in the form of her fourth grand slam on the year.

“”I’m definitely surprised because I personally didn’t think I could hit off pitching at college level,”” Del Ponte said of her success early in her colligate career. “”I’m just going up to the plate with a clear head.””

Lastrapes kicked off the tournament with a home run that would eventually lead to an 11-3 victory over No. 20 Louisville, giving Candrea his 1,200th NCAA Division I win. The Cardinals are a familiar opponent to Arizona.

“”Louisville was a team we played in regionals last year,”” Candrea said. “”(Sarah) Akamine threw four innings, I had to bring Fowler in in the fifth.””

Both Akamine and Fowler were able to go the distance in the circle for the Wildcats. Akamine pitched seven innings in Arizona’s 9-3 win over New Mexico.

In California, Arizona was without the services of some of its regular lineup. Lini Koria, Baillie Kirker and Karissa Buchanan did not see playing time in some of the games this weekend.

The injury bug bit the Wildcats on the road. In the Wildcats’ game against Oklahoma on March 19, freshman first baseman Kirker suffered bruised ribs and did not play the rest of the weekend. Right fielder Buchanan was sidelined after she split her finger in the New Mexico game.

“”That’s why our offense looked a little different,”” Candrea said of the line up changes.

With some of their starters out, underclassmen had to step in and fill vacant positions. Sophomore Alicia Banks saw playing time in both the New Mexico and Virginia games. Fowler even stepped up to the plate, seeing two at-bats in the game against the Cavaliers.

The Wildcats will be on the road next weekend when they travel to New Mexico for three more games with the Lobos before going to Tempe to open their Pac-10 schedule against ASU.

 

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