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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball team begins title defense

    UA junior pitcher Taryne Mowatt gets ready to hit in a 1-0 win over Pacific on Feb. 19 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Mowatt will be counted on to replace last years ace Alicia Hallowell, who went 32-5 and had an 0.89 ERA in her senior year.
    UA junior pitcher Taryne Mowatt gets ready to hit in a 1-0 win over Pacific on Feb. 19 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Mowatt will be counted on to replace last year’s ace Alicia Hallowell, who went 32-5 and had an 0.89 ERA in her senior year.

    The Arizona softball team was met with an unlikely obstacle as it prepared for its first practice of the season Monday morning, a frozen outfield.

    The reigning national champions have been chomping at the bit to begin their title defense, but the recent cold front forced them to wait just a little longer.

    “”Oh my gosh, I came to Arizona for hot weather,”” new ace Taryne Mowatt said after a bullpen session with catcher Callista Balko.

    Practice was pushed back from 10 a.m. to noon in order the let the grass thaw out, and the Wildcats hope the early setback was an aberration as they enter the 2007 season as the team to beat in college softball.

    “”We’re starting the season with a target on our back, and we really need to make sure that we concentrate and do the same things we did last year so we can get back to (the championship),”” center fielder Caitlin Lowe said.

    High expectations are nothing new for the seven-time national champions, but with many key players returning from last season expectations have swelled to the point that anything less than another championship will be considered a disappointment.

    “”For Arizona softball it’s a national championship or nothing,”” shortstop Kristie Fox said. “”Failure sounds like such a strong word, but that’s what it would be for us.””

    The Wildcats return all but one member of their potent batting order, with the lone

    We’re starting the season with a target on our back, and we really need to make sure that we concentrate and do the same things we did last year so we can get back to (the championship).

    – Caitlin Lowe, senior center fielder

    departure being graduated senior Autumn Champion. Champion led the team in hits in 2006 while batting second in the lineup, and replacing her production will fall largely on bat of freshman outfielder K’Lee Arredondo.

    Arredondo will be the first switch-hitter head coach Mike Candrea has ever had in his 22 years in Tucson. She was impressive in the Arizona’s fall tournaments, hitting three home runs in just 13 at-bats.

    Lowe and Fox, both All-Americans in 2006, will provide senior leadership along with second baseman Chelsie Mesa.

    Balko, whose 13 home runs in 2006 were second on the team to Fox’s 15, returns behind the plate after catching every pitch of every inning last season.

    Perhaps the biggest question mark heading into the season is on the pitchers’ mound. The departure of ace Alicia Hollowell, a four-time All-American, would seem to be worrisome for a team with championship aspirations. But Mowatt proved to be more than capable when she was thrust into the lineup last year because of an injury to Hollowell.

    Mowatt compiled a 21-5 record and a 1.28 ERA in 2006 and seems poised to carry on the tradition of dominant UA pitchers.

    When asked if she felt any pressure replacing a great player like Hollowell, Mowatt said, “”I think you need a little pressure to thrive. I’m excited to go out there and show what I can do.””

    With such a deep and talented roster the Wildcats’ toughest opponent may in fact be themselves. The temptation to look back at what they accomplished last year is something Candrea is aware of.

    “”(Our biggest obstacle will be) complacency more than anything, living in the past and not taking care of the little things,”” Candrea said.

    “”There are a lot of little factors that go into having a great year and being able to do things at the right time, so this is just the beginning of a new challenge for us.””

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