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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball fight for Pac-10 lead

    UA shortstop KLee Arredondo prepares to fire the ball toward first base during an 11-3 win against Oregon on March 28 at Hillenbrand Stadium.
    UA shortstop K’Lee Arredondo prepares to fire the ball toward first base during an 11-3 win against Oregon on March 28 at Hillenbrand Stadium.

    Every action film does it. The secret agent has the bad guy at gunpoint, and just when he’s about to pull the trigger, the bad guy miraculously escapes and an opportunity is lost. It’s frustrating to watch.

    That’s probably how the

    Arizona softball team felt in

    Saturday’s rain-out against ASU, as the Wildcats began to beat up the ASU defense before bad weather spared the Sun Devils by cutting the game short after three innings.

    The Wildcats (33-9) can funnel that frustration of a lost opportunity into three weekend games at Hillenbrand Stadium against No. 2 Stanford and No. 14

    California. They will face Stanford tonight at 7 and California at the same time tomorrow, before a finale against the Golden Bears on Sunday at noon.

    “”I hate bad weather (laughs),”” catcher Stacie Chambers said. “”I think we’re excited for this weekend, running off of energy from last weekend. I think we’re going to come out fired up.””

    That’s not to say motivation is hard to find during the Pacific 10 Conference schedule. Currently, head coach Mike Candrea’s squad lies atop the conference standings with a 5-2 conference record with Stanford (36-4) right below them, at 6-3 in conference.

    Battling for that top spot is important, but focus isn’t needed simply to win the conference – focus is needed to keep a team’s head above the water and qualify for post-season positioning. Arizona has just over three weeks of regular season games left.

    “”(Candrea) pretty much said it’s now or never,”” shortstop K’Lee Arredondo said. “”If we don’t do it now, we’re not going to find ourselves in a post season spot, and that’s only four weeks away. It’s a sense of urgency.””

    But the Wildcats can only control their own play, and that’s all they’ll worry about.

    “”We play our game, they play their game and the best team wins,”” Arredondo said. “”Hopefully it’s us.””

    The Stanford match-up will bring two very different teams to the field. Arizona touts a high-octane offense while the Cardinal will place one of softball’s better pitchers in the circle, senior Missy Penna (25-3).

    Aided by 14 shutouts, Penna has a 0.90 ERA on the year and has given up just five homers throughout her 193.2 innings. In comparison, Arizona’s offense had an equal number of long-bombs in their seven innings against the Sun Devils last Friday.

    So who will come out on top?

    “”If we get to Penna, then I think we get to Stanford,”” Candrea said. “”I think that’s our mission.””

    A notable on the Cardinal offense is freshman Ashley Hansen. The Tempe Corona del Sol High School graduate leads her team with 57 hits and 39 RBI.

    Against the Golden Bears (29-12, 5-4), Arizona will face a young team whose roster lists only two seniors. But what they lack in experience, they make up in talent. They are led by freshman Jamia Reed’s .350 batting average and 43 hits on the year.

    “”Cal is one of those teams, that (when) you give them confidence, they all play with extreme amounts of it and play well,”” Candrea said.

    Taking away the confidence early could lead to an Arizona victory over the scrappy young team, he added. Coming out of the gates strongly is key in propelling the Wildcats and giving them a chance to win.

    “”It starts at practice,”” Arredondo said. “”If we can come out here and prepare for practice and do what we need to get done, then we’re going to be very prepared for the game.””

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