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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball to battle US Olympic team

    Former Arizona softball pitcher Jennie Finch pitches during a practice last night at Hillenbrand Stadium for the U.S. Olympic team. The Wildcats will face Finch and several other former Wildcats on the national team tonight at 6.
    Former Arizona softball pitcher Jennie Finch pitches during a practice last night at Hillenbrand Stadium for the U.S. Olympic team. The Wildcats will face Finch and several other former Wildcats on the national team tonight at 6.

    The No. 1 Arizona softball team thought the competition was tough when they opened up their season slate against No. 7 Northwestern and No. 3 Texas A&M Saturday.

    They haven’t seen anything yet.

    Tonight the Wildcats have an exhibition game against arguably the best softball team in the world, as the three-time defending Olympic gold medalist U.S. Women’s National Team’s first stop of the “”Bound 4 Beijing Tour”” is tonight in Hillenbrand Stadium at 6.

    Team USA will make more than 46 stops over the next six months for games against viable Division I opponents in preparation for this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

    “”We are going to approach it like we would any other conference game”” said UA interim head coach Larry Ray. “”We are going to try and put the ball in play, get some runners on, and maybe try and score a run or two.””

    But the game will be anything but ordinary for the Wildcats.

    Head coach Mike Candrea will be in the visiting dugout with familiar faces in former Wildcats Jennie Finch, Alicia Hollowell, Lovie Jung and Caitlin Lowe.

    Though they all called Hillenbrand Stadium home, the bunch has a mixture of feelings on the return to their alma mater.

    For Candrea, the trip back home will be anything but easy.

    “”I have had a little bit of practice (coaching against my team), at least in ’04,”” he said. “”We were here and that was really tough on me because I’d never ever coached against my own team.

    “”There is a lot of emotion right now for me,”” he added. “”It was tough to leave this team. There are still a lot of relationships with those kids on (Arizona).””

    On the other hand, Finch and Lowe are looking forward to playing at Hillenbrand in front of all the Wildcat faithful.

    “”It’s a little different, but I think playing on this field is just so
    welcoming,”” said Lowe, a four-time Arizona All-American. “”There are such great memories for me to fall back on so it is going to be fun no matter what.””

    “”I think no matter what dugout you’re in it’s still home,”” Finch said. “”Tucson is my home, and it is so special to get back here and be able to play on the greatest field in the U.S.””

    The Wildcats, on the other hand, got off to a rocky start in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe last weekend, dropping three of the five games.

    The team looked like anything but themselves from a year ago, as glimpses of blemished pitching, mistake-plagued defense and untimely hitting held the Wildcats back from a successful weekend.

    “”It is just going to depend on how we bounce back from the weekend,”” said K’Lee Arredondo. “”If we can come back out with some intensity then we can give them a run for their money.

    “”They are our examples,”” she added. “”I think it will be good competition for us in general because we’ve won the past two (Women’s College World Series) and they are best (in the next league) up, so it is kind of like the two best leagues playing each other.””

    Beating the Olympic team would be highly unlikely for Arizona – Team USA went 53-0 in the 2004 ‘Aiming For Athens Tour,’ outscoring their opponents 476-14 – but the game is something the Wildcats are looking forward to.

    In 2004 when Arizona hosted Team USA they lost 6-1 – the Wildcats’ only run came off of a solo homerun by now graduate assistant Kristie Fox off of Finch – however, Arizona is looking at this game as a learning experience.

    “”I think all we can do is go out there and do the best that we can and play the way we actually know how to play,”” said sophomore Stacie Chambers. “”When we play every game we go out and try to win and that’s what we do and that is our goal. I think we can actually learn a lot from just watching them.””

    -Brian Kimball contributed to this report

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