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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    T-locs lead Cats against Sun Devils

    As a little girl, Callista Balko frequently attended Arizona softball games and even served as a foul ball girl for the team.

    Now she is the starting catcher for the Wildcats and has caught every pitch thrown by an Arizona pitcher for the past two seasons.

    “”When I was younger, it was something I always wanted to do,”” Balko said. “”I always wanted to be here.””

    While being recruited out of Tucson’s Canyon Del Oro High School, Balko was so certain she wanted to be a Wildcat, she didn’t even visit any other school.

    The group of Tucson natives, or T-locs ðð- who have a combined 44 runs scored, 33 RBI and 14 stolen bases this season – will lead the No. 4 Arizona softball team (31-8, 7-1 Pacific 10 Conference) into Tempe tonight looking to wrap up a season sweep of No. 10 ASU (39-10, 5-3).

    “”It’s always an advantage. Obviously, we want to keep the good local players here,”” said UA head coach Mike Candrea. “”It’s exciting for them to play in front of the home crowd and in front of their parents.””

    Balko is second on the team with eight home runs this season and boasts the third-best slugging percentage, while successfully helping integrate new ace Taryne Mowatt into a starring role on the mound.

    But Balko isn’t the only T-loc making an impact for the Wildcats.

    Right fielder Adrienne Acton grew up in Tucson before moving to nearby Marana in high school.

    “”You grow up watching Arizona softball, and you always dream about playing here, and then to finally do – it is crazy,”” said Acton, who recalled watching current UA pitching coach Nancy Evans back when Evans was an All-American pitcher for the Wildcats.

    Bench players Cyndi Duran and Danielle Rodriguez also hail from Tucson and have made big contributions to the team.

    Duran is in her first year with the Wildcats after transferring to Pima Community College from Kansas in part because of her lifelong dream to be a Wildcat. After playing a year at Pima, Duran transferred to Arizona this year and immediately started producing.

    Duran, a graduate of Tucson’s Flowing Wells High School, has hit .308 in a reserve role and started six games this season before injuring her left wrist Feb. 28 in an exhibition contest.

    Rodriguez attended Tucson Magnet High School and walked on to the team before last season. She scored the winning run as a pinch-runner against Michigan in the Women’s College World Series last year.

    Tucson has become a breeding ground for talented softball players in part because of the influence the UA softball team has had on young players in the area, Acton said.

    “”In large part it’s because of Arizona softball because it’s such a big part of the community,”” Acton said. “”It gives young girls a dream and something to look up to, and if you work hard enough you can be here, so I think that’s why.””

    Extra Bases

    The Wildcats took the first two games against the Sun Devils in Tucson behind a pair of dominant performances by pitcher Taryne Mowatt.

    Mowatt (23-7) threw her fourth career no-hitter as the Wildcats won 1-0 April 6. She followed that up with a complete game, two-hit shutout April 7 as Arizona once again came out on top 1-0.

    For her efforts against the Sun Devils Mowatt was named both the Co-Player of the Week by USA Softball and the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week.

    Mowatt will be opposite ASU pitcher Katie Burkhart (21-8), who filled both those award slots after Mowatt vacated them last week.

    T-locs making an impact around the nation

    In addition to the four playing for Arizona, Tucsonans are making an impact on elite softball teams throughout the country.

    Flowing Wells High School graduate and Pima Community College transfer Ashley Monceaux leads No. 9 Baylor in batting average, home runs and RBI this season and was named First-Team All-Big 12 Conference in 2006.

    Jackie Vasquez, the starting left fielder for No. 10 ASU, is a graduate of Catalina Foothills High School. Like Arizona’s Cyndi Duran, she started at Kansas before transferring back to her home state. She is hitting .328 this season for the Sun Devils and has helped them to a 37-10 record.

    Another Flowing Wells graduate, Desiree Williams, suits up for No. 13 Texas. Williams is battling a knee injury and has played in only eight games this season, but she was named First-Team All-Big 12 in 2006 with Monceaux, and her 12 home runs were a single-season record for the Longhorns.

    Kelsy Rokey, a graduate of Salpointe Catholic High School, has started at catcher for 19 of No. 23 Virginia Tech’s 28 games this season.

    – Cameron Jones

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