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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball aims to stay hot

    UA pitcher Sarah Akamine prepares to hurl the ball toward home plate during a 10-0 Arizona win against North Dakota State on Feb. 20 at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats face No. 21 Texas A&M in a three-game road trip starting tonight at 5 local time.
    UA pitcher Sarah Akamine prepares to hurl the ball toward home plate during a 10-0 Arizona win against North Dakota State on Feb. 20 at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats face No. 21 Texas A&M in a three-game road trip starting tonight at 5 local time.

    The No. 10 Arizona softball team will have three shots at last year’s national runner-up – the Texas A&M Aggies – at 7 p.m. today, 7 p.m. tomorrow and 1:15 p.m. Sunday in College Station.

    “”They’re a good team with rich tradition,”” said UA head coach Mike Candrea. “”It’s a tough place to play: good fan support. It’ll be a great weekend for us to put a little better gauge of where we’re at right now.””

    Last year, the Aggies were about to summit the Everest of college softball, but slipped, ending as runners-up in the softball world series to ASU. Their descent continued into the 2009 season with the Aggies (9-7) sliding to a No. 21 ranking and suffering a five-game losing streak.

    Now, they seem to have regained their mojo with four wins in the last five games, highlighted by a defeat of No. 18 Houston. But most recently, they faltered against an Illinois team that Arizona (13-2) defeated earlier in the year, as A&M lost by a run in eight innings to the Illini.

    Hungry to get back on track, the Aggies will prove to be a tougher challenge compared to Arizona’s past weekend. Behind their Hillenbrand Stadium home crowd, the Wildcats effectively dismissed North Dakota State and Utah three times each.

    “”We’re at a point now where we need a little challenge,”” Candrea said. “”This will definitely give it to us.””

    Arizona’s challenge will be contending with a team that is inconsistent in scoring, but when on top of its game can send lots of runners across home plate. They have won on 11 and 14 run games but on the same token, have scored two or less runs four times.

    But by losing last year’s Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Gibson, the Aggies will give Arizona the opportunity to unleash its offensive firepower. Led by Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Week Stacie Chambers and her Pac-10 leading 30 RBIs, the Wildcats have scored in double figures six times in 15 games.

    In preparation for competitive outings, Arizona can look back at come-from-behind victories in Tampa, Fla., against South Florida. There, the Wildcats refused to fold and ended up scoring on clutch hitting from veteran players.

    “”Sometimes I think we’re young in the aspect of we don’t know how to get going and get fired up,”” said senior Laine Roth. “”But in the past, like in Florida, we proved that we can.””

    With Arizona ranked No. 10, it still sits behind four Pac-10 rivals – Washington, UCLA, Stanford and California. Nonetheless, Roth said it doesn’t add more pressure to beat the Aggies.

    “”I kind of like not being No. 1 coming into these, because it’s so much pressure,”” she said. “”Now, we can kind of play our game. I feel like we have a lot of pressure off of us.””

    Candrea said he doesn’t pay attention to the rankings and has no problems with where the Wildcats are currently sitting. And like Roth, he doesn’t see this game as being different from any other.

    “”Right now, we’re process oriented,”” he said. “”We got to go out there and play ourselves. If we’re improving and doing better jobs at the things we need to do, the end result will take care of itself.””

    As far as lineups go, the Wildcats will again give pitchers Sarah Akamine (7-0) and Lindsey Sisk (6-2) a start in the first two games. Whoever matches up well against the Aggies will earn themselves the Sunday start, Candrea said.

    At shortstop, Victoria Kemp will most likely get the start for the injured K’Lee Arredondo, who tweaked her hamstring two weeks ago, but Candrea is hopeful to get Arredondo some playing time.

    “”She looks like she’s getting a little better,”” he said. “”I’m kind of counting on her being able to get some time this week.””

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