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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball kicks off preseason

    Brittany Lastrapes was recently talking to her father, David, about the start of the Arizona softball fall season.

    The sophomore outfielder talked about the team’s expectations to beat Yavapai this Saturday at 4 p.m. and Eastern Arizona at 6 p.m. at Hillenbrand Stadium.

    If the Wildcats – eight-time Division I national champions – lost to either community college, they’d never live it down.

    “”I was like, ‘We could lose,'”” Lastrapes said of her conversation with her father. “”I don’t know if it’s pressure, but I know we just have to (win). There’s no other option. In (Pacific 10 Conference) play, you can get by with a 1-0 victory because that’s Pac-10. But we know we just have to (win).””

    The Wildcats will have just a few days of practice before their first fall competition Saturday, as they had their first full practice Wednesday at Hillenbrand Stadium.

    The team, with five departed seniors and four new freshmen, did not have all of its current members participating at the first practice. Junior Sarah Akamine was out with presumed food poisoning and junior Stacie Chambers will miss all of fall ball as she heals from wrist surgery she had last week to repair an extensor carpi ulnaris tendon sheath.

    UA head coach Mike Candrea was also absent because he is in Europe conducting softball clinics. He is scheduled to return Saturday evening.

    The Wildcats didn’t know the coach was gone until earlier in the week, but the players, especially the veterans, know how to go about their business, seeing as the head coach missed all of last season because he was coaching the U.S. Olympic team.

    “”We’ll always come out of practice positive and ready to play so it’s not really going to have any affect on us,”” said senior Sam Banister.

    Though the team has lost some impact players – namely catcher Callista Balko and pitcher Taryne Mowatt, both of whom were seniors last year – Lastrapes said the team’s nucleus is still solid.

    “”I don’t think we lost too much,”” Lastrapes said. “”We obviously lost some big position players.””

    The biggest question is how Mowatt – a two-time ESPY winner – will be replaced. But, as Lastrapes said, “”that’s what they say about everyone.””

    Jennie Finch replaced Nancy Evans, Alicia Hollowell took over after Finch and Mowatt filled in nicely for Hollowell.

    This upcoming season Akamine and sophomore Lindsey Sisk will compete for a starting spot in the circle to take Mowatt’s place as the team’s ace. Sisk appeared in 20 games as a pitcher last season while Akamine pitched six times.

    As of now, it seems that Sisk has the edge.

    “”I fully expect to see the same type of young lady that we recruited,”” assistant coach Larry Ray said of Sisk. “”Last year we relied heavily on Taryne, and any time Lindsey kind of faltered a little bit, we went with a quick hook.””

    Ray said he feels good about the team’s overall skill level, but “”the question mark is going to be, ‘How many runs are we going to give up?'””.

    “”If we play solid defense and swing the bats like we’re very capable of,”” Ray said, “”I’m anxious to see this group.””

    Extra bases
    A few cosmetic changes have been made at Hillenbrand Stadium.

    The infield was recomposed using a product called Stabilizer “”Pro Red”” Infield Mix to accept water easier. A new pitching rubber and home plate were also placed in the infield.

    The most recognizable addition, however, is the eight-foot wide warning track in the outfield.

    “”I think it helps a little bit,”” Lastrapes, an outfielder, said of the track. “”Our wall is the biggest thing that scares me. It’s definitely going to make me feel a little bit safer.””

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