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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Six straight to start seasaon

Arizona softball’s 6-0 start to the season was a weight off the team’s shoulders after struggling in the Kajikawa Classics of years past. Despite room for improvement, it was a positive beginning for a team riding strong chemistry and fresh faces.

“”Last few years we haven’t done well at that event,”” said junior outfielder Brittany Lastrapes. “”It feels really good to get off to a good start. I think our defense can tighten up a little bit, but our pitching did really well. We hit really well, especially when we needed to.””

The Wildcats dropped Western Michigan University 13-0 and Purdue 10-0 in their two Friday, run-rule shortened games in Tempe. They also defeated North Dakota State University 6-0, Nevada 10-5 and Cal State Fullerton 8-1 on Saturday and Sunday.

But the most interesting game came in a 4-3 victory against No. 17 Northwestern on Saturday. With freshman ace Kenzie Fowler in the circle, the Wildcats needed a seventh-inning rally to overcome the other Wildcats out of Evanston, Ill.

“”Anytime you’re down, it’s great to see a team come back,”” said assistant head coach Larry Ray. “”The key is that we just didn’t give up, and that’s a good trait. We can build on that.””

Fowler gave up three earned runs against Northwestern, the only mars on her overall performance in a weekend where she went 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA, while recording 41 strikeouts.

To her rescue came the Arizona batters behind Lastrapes, who hit a walk-off single to bring two runners in and allow the Wildcats to walk-off with a win.

“”I was a little bit nervous because I felt sort of responsible if we were going to lose,”” Lastrapes said, acknowledging she had played poorly up to that point in the game. “”As soon as we got a couple people on base, I knew we were going to come back.””

While it was veterans Lini Koria and Lastrapes that led the Wildcats with a team-high eight RBIs through the first weekend of play, Ray was pleased with the performance of the freshmen thrown into starting positions.

Freshman Baillie Kirker took the reps at first base and hit a team-high two home runs while fellow freshmen Matte Haack and Brigette Del Ponte split time at third base. Haack tallied a grand slam in the first inning against Nevada Sunday while Del Ponte hit in four RBIs against NDSU on Saturday.

“”They stepped up,”” Koria, a sophomore, said of her young teammates. “”That’s a good sign for all of us. They showed a lot of maturity out there.””

Also showing promise was senior pitcher Sarah Akamine, who saw her first serious action since recovering from off-season back surgery.

“”Sarah’s a battler,”” said Ray. “”The last day was a struggle for her but she gave us enough innings to try and get through. We just need to keep her healthy and throwing the ball well enough to win games.””

Akamine earned a 2-0 start to her season, but found trouble against Nevada, where she went 3.2 innings before she was pulled for Fowler to finish off the Wolfpack. She gave up five runs in that contest, but two Arizona defensive errors didn’t help her cause.

Five total errors on the weekend were troubling outcomes for the Wildcats, but overall, the short road trip was a success.

“”It’s kind of a typical first weekend,”” Ray said. “”There were a lot of bright spots, but also a lot of things that we need to shore up. I just think as long as they continue to try and get better, we’re going to be OK.””

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