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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    No. 4 softball set to open home Pac-10

    Claire C. Laurence/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

No. 1 softball defeated No. 10 Louisiana-Layfeyette 4-2 yesterday in Hillenbrand Stadium.
    Claire C. Laurence/ Arizona Daily Wildcat No. 1 softball defeated No. 10 Louisiana-Layfeyette 4-2 yesterday in Hillenbrand Stadium.

    After losing their 2006 Pacific-10 Conference opener to No. 6 Oregon State last weekend, the young Wildcats got a small taste of just how tough their conference was.

    Arizona (30-4, 1-1 Pac-10) spent four weeks sitting atop the USA Today/NFCA rankings, but in recent weeks dropped down to the No. 4 position, although the team has notched the No. 2 spot in the other major college softball poll.

    If Arizona wants to get back in the top spot, the Wildcats will need to have a dominant weekend since the set features three games against two Pac-10 opponents ranked in the top 15.

    Tonight at 7 the Wildcats face off against No. 14 Washington (27-10, 1-2), and tomorrow at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 1 they play host to No. 2 UCLA (30-3, 2-1).

    “”Both UCLA and Washington … bring experience along with talented young players, and both teams are playing well,”” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “”The two teams also have good pitching, and that should be a tough challenge for us.””

    The Huskies are coming off a mild showing last weekend after they were defeated by No. 7 California 1-0 and 2-0 by No. 9 Stanford but bounced back in the final game, run-ruling the Cardinal 8-0. On Wednesday the Huskies played host to Portland State and won 4-2.

    Washington has a very strong offensive attack that averages almost five runs per game. The team is led by sophomore shortstop Ashley Charters and senior first baseman Sarah Hyatt. Charters leads the team with a .454 batting average and 25 stolen bases, while Hyatt leads the team with 31 RBIs.

    In the circle, the duty is split between freshman right-hander Danielle Lawrie and sophomore righty Caitlin Noble, who have pitched every inning for the Huskies so far this year.

    “”Washington is a very good team,”” Candrea said. “”They have good young pitching and have also been playing very well lately.””

    For the final two games of the series, Arizona will be battling for a possible top overall ranking with UCLA. The two teams have arguably been the most dominant softball forces in recent years.

    Last season the Bruins lost to Michigan in the championship game of the NCAA Women’s College World Series, and they bring back their entire roster this year. Junior shortstop Jodie Legaspi leads their offensive attack with a .357 batting average and nine home runs.

    The pitching leader for UCLA is last year’s All-American and Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year sophomore right-hander Anjelica Selden. She leads the team with a 17-2 record to go with a sparkling 0.48 ERA.

    “”UCLA is traditionally more of a rival than ASU has been over the years,”” Candrea said. “”If you look at college softball teams, the two most storied programs are theirs and ours.””

    Powerhouse Pac-10

    The Pac-10 has always had a reputation for fielding the most elite softball teams, but the conference this year is stronger than ever. This week six of the Pac-10’s eight teams are sitting in the top nine spots in the USA Today/NFCA rankings and a seventh team (Washington) is No. 14 overall.

    “”The Pac-10 is stronger from top to bottom,”” Candrea said. “”There is no doubt that the teams fared very well against their nonconference opponents.

    “”It is definitely an indication of how strong the teams are in the Pac-10. It always has been strong, but to have six teams in the top 10 is unheard of. I can’t remember the last time that happened.””

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