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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    What to know about Wildcat softball

    Players to Watch

    Sam Banister, Senior, utility player

    Banister started in 52 games last season at both first and second base. This year – in typical Mike Candrea style – she has played first base, second base and right field through the first nine games. Where she ends up is anyone’s guess, but Banister has proven to be a great leader and teammate, no matter what position she plays.

    K’Lee Arredondo, Junior, shortstop

    While the junior is not a power hitter, she knows how to find the gaps and has become a doubles machine. Last season, Arredondo set a third-place Arizona record for hitting 19 doubles on the year and also led the team with three triples. She is also the leading returnee for stolen bases after she successfully nabbed 7 out of 8 stolen base attempts.

    Lauren Schutzler, Sophomore, outfielder

    The sophomore from Monterey, Calif., had a batting average of .353 last season, which was the second best on the team behind fellow outfielder Brittany Lastrapes. While she is the less heralded of the two, Schutzler is a young, yet experienced player who gives head coach Mike Candrea a solid option on both offense and defense.

    Key Returners

    Jenae Leles, Senior, third base

    From her sophomore to junior year, Leles increased her batting average from .265 to .349 and ended the year with a team-leading 17 home runs. Now, Leles has worked her way onto the NCAA Softball Player of the Year watch list. Her numbers are impressive enough, but her leadership and refusal to lose has already shown through the first few weeks of the season.

    Brittany Lastrapes,Sophomore, outfield

    As a sophomore, Lastrapes has already worked her way into national recognition, joining Leles on the POY watch list. She led the team with a 0.364 batting average last season as a freshman and scored an incredible 52 runs on 68 hits. With a target now on her back, it will be interesting to see how opposing pitchers handle the deadly hitter.

    Freshman Faces

    Karissa Buchanan, Outfielder

    The Sabino High School graduate will likely see time in the outfield, but has also been put into some pinch-running situations. She has three hits on the season in limited playing time.

    Lini Koria, Catcher/designated player

    California’s No. 1 all-time home run hitter drilled her first long ball in the second game of the season against UTEP. She should see some playing time during the season as a result of that power.

    Kristen Arriola, Second base

    The Californian will fight for playing time at second base and produced two RBI in the Wildcats’ last game against Hofstra.

    Alicia Banks, First base

    Another player from southern Arizona, the former Buena High School star has already been called upon as a pinch hitter this season.

    The Arizona softball experience is not only about perfecting the technique of swinging a bat or catching a ground ball, but also includes learning how to play up to one’s capabilities when the pressure is at its peak.

    Fab-Four Freshman

    That is the coaching staff’s challenge coming into this year, where a talented, yet raw freshman class has the chance to make a name for themselves.

    “”Freshmen have tendencies to have a little slower learning curve, but I like the freshmen,”” said UA head coach Mike Candrea. “”We’ve got some kids that have played this game at a fairly high level, but the high level in travel ball and the high level here are completely different.””

    “”It’s just a matter of us giving them opportunities to grow and to try to stay positive,”” he added, “”put them in good situations where they can be successful, I think that’s a huge part.””

    The key for the coaches is to give the freshmen the opportunities to experience game situations that can’t be duplicated in practice. Once they learn how to control their emotions on the fly, their superior skill set can shine.

    “”They get in a game and kind of get nervous,”” said junior K’Lee Arredondo. “”I did the same thing freshman and sophomore year. They’ll get there, it just takes time.””

    To give them the needed experience, Candrea will keep mixing up his lineups until he finds which players can step up to the challenge of Division I softball.

    “”It’s just a matter of gaining experience,”” Candrea said. “”Who is going to be the gamers, who’s going to be the people who can step up with their uniforms on and it’s prime time? Practice will tell you one thing, but games will tell you sometimes a different thing.””

    Senior Jenae Leles preaches not only for the younger players to keep their emotions at bay, but also says her younger teammates must learn when and how to extend those emotions into positive plays during clutch moments.

    “”We need that (emotion) to stay at a plateau,”” Leles said. “”We need to be able to rise and not just stay at a certain level. Other teams are going to come out and play their best, and we can’t play at our mediocre against that.””

    This season is a long one with more than 50 games, not even including the NCAA Regional tournaments. Arizona won’t even hit the Pacific 10 Conference games until March 27, giving Candrea optimal time to find his freshman playing time before he has to tighten his lineup.

    “”That’s the thing this year: we have to continue to grow,”” he said. “”The big thing for me is the emotional stability. Will they take the game in stride and play hard and play smart?””

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