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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Lineup in Limbo for softball

    Freshman left fielder Brittany Lastrapes goes for a fly ball in yesterdays softball practice at Hillenbrand Stadium. Lastrapes hopes to win the starting left fielder position for the Wildcats season-opening tournament in Tempe Friday.
    Freshman left fielder Brittany Lastrapes goes for a fly ball in yesterday’s softball practice at Hillenbrand Stadium. Lastrapes hopes to win the starting left fielder position for the Wildcats’ season-opening tournament in Tempe Friday.

    When Kristie Fox, Caitlin Lowe and Chelsie Mesa departed after their senior seasons and last year’s second consecutive Women’s College World Series title, they were undoubtedly leaving some question marks behind for this year’s team to inherit.

    Uncertainty in terms of which players would succeed them at their positions came to fruition. How the batting order would look this year was also left in shambles.

    With just under a week left until the Arizona softball team opens its season Friday in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, the newcomers are filling familiar roles and preparing to step up in key positions.

    The prospective defensive outlook is anything but recognizable from last year, but UA interim coach Larry Ray said he doesn’t foresee the players struggling too much in their new roles.

    “”I don’t think (players moving around to different positions) is that big of an adjustment from last year,”” Ray said. “”Each year we lose outstanding players, but as I have said in the past, the younger players will just have to step up their games.””

    The Wildcats will rely heavily on freshmen this year – particularly in the outfield – as newcomers Brittany Lastrapes and Lauren Schutzler will likely occupy both corner outfield positions.

    The lone upperclassman in the outfield will be senior Adrienne Acton, who will move over from right field to replace Lowe in center while possibly picking up some slack in the leadoff position on offense.

    Acton leads the team in returning batting average (.294) – after the top three batters from last year graduated – as well as stolen bases (12).

    “”Obviously we have two freshman in the outfield and I think we have really been working on our communication and we are also pretty familiar with each other’s speed and how far we can go for balls,”” Acton said. “”I just think we work well together.

    “”Caitlin is always going to be a hard one to replace but we played together and I had to play some center field last year so I feel really comfortable and confident out there and I am looking forward to taking the challenge.””

    Starting in the outfield is quite the undertaking for new freshmen that are undoubtedly nervous, but excitement and eagerness to get the season underway has taken over their emotions.

    Nevertheless, the freshman outfielders have an extensive background in softball as both of the girls have older sisters who have various accomplishments in the Division I softball. Lastrapes’ older sister, Dominique, was a career .342 hitter at
    Washington while being named a two-time All-American second baseman and Schutzler’s older sister, Lindsay, was a National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American at Tennessee.

    “”I have seen all these girls play on TV and I’ve seen them play (at Hillenbrand Stadium) so when I first started practicing it was kind of scary,”” Lastrapes said. “”When practice first started I just wanted a start, but now that we are playing this weekend and hopefully I do get the start I am nervous but really excited.

    “”I actually have some of the worst nerves, but I do better when I am nervous so I am just going to use that to fuel my game.””

    The Wildcats’ infield will be filled with recognizable faces but may seem a little out of place in contrast to last year’s positions.

    The most notable change in the infield is K’Lee Arredondo’s move from left field to shortstop to fill in for a graduated Fox and will work diligently to replace Fox’s offensive and defensive production.

    Fox, an undergraduate assistant for the Wildcats, has been working with Arredondo to help prepare her new position.

    “”Watching K’Lee, she looks very comfortable in the infield and I think she prefers it,”” said Fox, who batted .342 with 15 home runs and 63 RBIs last season. “”Being a shortstop you need to be in charge of the whole team, you need to be very vocal, and I think just getting used to being (comfortable in the infield) is what is important.””

    At Mesa’s departed second base there is currently a position battle between sophomore Sarah Akamine and freshman Victoria Kemp.

    Akamine spent time last year on the mound in rare relief of star pitcher Taryne Mowatt – including a complete game shutout in a doubleheader against New Mexico March 24 – and had 16 RBIs in 67 at-bats.

    Ray said Akamine and Kemp are “”neck-and-neck,”” and whoever swings the bat more effectively will likely win the job.

    Nevertheless Akamine said she is enjoying the competition with Kemp, who is one of her close friends on the team, and is looking forward to contributing to the team in any way she can.

    “”I think we are doing a really good job of getting people into different positions,”” Akamine said. “”Second base is a lot different than what I am used to, but all of the coaches have been really helping us all adjust to our different positions.””

    Even in the face of all the changes the softball squad is going through, Ray is confident the team will be ready for its season-opening weekend tournament.

    “”I think once these players get over the butterflies of getting over the Division I level, I think they will settle in and be the type of players they are capable of,”” Ray said. “”We just want to refine some things, nothing too extraordinary.””

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