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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Ahead of the process

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Locked in.

It’s not a phrase normally associated with the Women’s College World Series. Especially not in April.

But even with three weeks left in Pacific 10 Conference play, only one thing is on the mind of the Arizona softball team — Oklahoma City.

The No. 3 Wildcats are in the home stretch of conference play with only two road series at California and Oregon, and a series with UCLA at Hillenbrand Stadium to close out the year. Although there is a month left in the regular season, the feeling around Hillenbrand Stadium is already that of a playoff atmosphere.

Appearing in the postseason has become a regular thing for Arizona softball — see 21 consecutive Women’s College World Series appearances — but this year’s Wildcats are jumping the gun in terms of readiness.

“”I feel good about this team,”” said head coach Mike Candrea. “”I feel good about where we’re at … I think we had more pieces to the puzzle together than we don’t.””

And with its 37-7, 8-4 record, Arizona is all-but-guaranteed to host regional play during the postseason — something that could prove to be the missing piece in adding another National Champion banner to Hillenbrand’s already decorated outfield wall.

Although the Wildcats would have to successfully navigate through Regionals and Super Regionals, the advantage of hosting the first two stops on the road to Oklahoma City is exactly what Candrea wants.

“”I think if we take two of three from here on out we should expect good things. We’re in control of our destiny,”” Candrea said. “”The bottom line is I don’t want to just host a Regional, I want to go to the World Series and play well at the World Series.””

This year’s team has the ability to do just that.

It’s the balance between pitching and timely hitting that gives Arizona the advantage. Unlike last season when the Wildcats could be hit-or-miss either at the plate or in the circle, the 2010 Wildcats have managed to find a balance before the end of the season.

Thanks to a rejuvenated lineup including freshman pitcher Kenzie Fowler and the nation’s top-scoring offense, talk of the postseason can’t be contained any longer in Tucson. 

Fowler has been lights out in the circle and the offense has matched her firepower. The rare times that opponents have been able to hit off Fowler, the Arizona bats have been the saving grace.

“”Offensively I feel pretty good,”” Candrea said. “”We have balance throughout our lineup. We can put numbers on the board very quickly,”” he added. “”We score a lot of runs with two outs, so we’re never out of an inning.””

Arizona has Brigette Del Ponte, the RBIs per game leader; Fowler, who is capable of throwing a perfect game every time she steps in the circle; and veteran leaders who know what it takes to get back to top.

Candrea’s process has the Wildcats on the road to be playing softball on June 9, the final day of the College World Series.

And so far, the Wildcats have found the balance to give them a leg up on Candrea’s schedule.

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