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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Sotball’s offense on power trip

    Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Wildcat softball takes on Minnesota on Friday, March 6th, 2009.
    Mike Christy
    Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat Wildcat softball takes on Minnesota on Friday, March 6th, 2009.

    Homeruns are glitzy and exciting, and they’re flying out of Hillenbrand Stadium on a consistent basis – especially off the bats of junior Stacie Chambers and senior Jenae Leles.

    Although the entire lineup is capable of going deep, those two players for the Wildcats stand out. Chambers and Leles, respectively, currently occupy the top two spots on the national home run leader board. Chambers has hit 22 homers, while Leles trails by five with 17 jacks on the season. They’re hitting them deep and having fun while doing it.

    “”It’s a great honor to have,”” Chambers said.

    To add to it, both players know that a little friendly competition never hurt anyone. The hunt to see who will be the team leader brewed motivation between the two players that is certainly seeing results in the batters box.

    “”I know Jenae is not too far behind me. We have this little rivalry thing that we do. It’s kind of motivational,”” Chambers said. “”We like it though. We love competing against each other, that’s for sure.””

    Their friendly competition has turned into a great thing for the Arizona (31-7, 3-0 Pacific 10 Conference) offense as both players’ home run production is up. Leles has tied her career home run total and still has 18 games left to play in the regular season.

    “”Yeah, I’ll catch up,”” Leles said about keeping pace with Chambers. “”I tell her she might have more than me, but I hit them farther,””

    Chambers has already hit five more home runs so far this season than her total last year, and is on pace to break the Arizona single season home run record of 37 set by Laura Espinoza in the 1995 season.

    “”It’s a good competition between me and her. She wants me to do the best, and I want her to do the best,”” Leles said. “”It’s a good feeling.””

    Leles won the weekend series as she went deep four times as No. 11 Arizona opened up Pac-10 play at home. While the end of the season will bring an end to this rivalry with a sole winner, no one can complain about the impact it has spreading through the lineup.

    “”In the long run, when you have two or three kids swinging the bat, the confidence grows throughout the team,”” said UA head coach Mike Candrea.

    As a team, Arizona has jacked 88 out of the park this year. Five different players have hit grand slams – three of them coming from Chambers.

    “”You know if we’re seeing the ball and we make solid contact, all throughout our lineup, its most likely going to be gone,”” Chambers said Saturday night after beating Oregon.

    The homers have not by any means been the entire source of Arizona’s offense. Three players are batting over .400, and as a team the Wildcats have 134 more hits than their opponents.

    However, the home runs seem to be lurking eerily in big situations. Most recently, the Wildcats showed their clutch hitting Sunday afternoon during their comeback win agaisnt Oregon. Two long balls were blasted out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Wildcats the 7-6 victory, the last by Leles.

    “”I never try to hit homeruns, it just happens,”” she said after the game. “”Just see the ball and hit it. Just swing away when I see it like that.””

    The results of having so much power in all nine spots in the lineup gives Arizona a great advantage. The power lurking up and down the Wildcat lineup gives them a fighting chance in any situation.

    The hitting production from Chambers and Leles gives the team leaders confidence knowing that the team can produce. What started as a friendly competition has inadvertently spread throughout the whole team.

    Whether they knew it or not, both players have given consistency to the Wildcat lineup – something that Candrea has been desperately searching for.

    “”Great athletes never have a doubt in their mind. They have a knack of staying in the present moment,”” Candrea said. “”I’ll take it anyway we can.””

    Extra Bases

    Leles was named a finalist for the 2009 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. To be nominated for the award, an athlete must demonstrate “”personal qualities that define a complete student-athlete”” in the classroom and community and their character and competition. This award winner will be announced during the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

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