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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball goes on first road trip

    UA shortstop Kristie Fox follows through with her swing during Arizona win over Creighton March 6 at Hillenbrand Stadium. The No. 2 Wildcats journey on the road for their first true away games this weekend at No. 14 Baylor with Fox and fellow seniors Caitlin Lowe and Chelsie Mesa hot at the top of the batting order.
    UA shortstop Kristie Fox follows through with her swing during Arizona win over Creighton March 6 at Hillenbrand Stadium. The No. 2 Wildcats journey on the road for their first true away games this weekend at No. 14 Baylor with Fox and fellow seniors Caitlin Lowe and Chelsie Mesa hot at the top of the batting order.

    Just as most Arizona students are getting ready for a week of rest and relaxation, the No. 2 Arizona softball team is beginning one of its toughest stretches of the season.

    First the Wildcats (16-3) head to Waco, Texas, to face No. 14 Baylor in their first true road game of the year. The only time Arizona has played away from the friendly confines of Hillenbrand Stadium was Feb. 9-11, when the team participated in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.

    “”I think it’s going to be a good test for us to play somewhere where no one likes us and everyone’s rooting against us,”” shortstop Kristie Fox said. “”We’re really fortunate to have great fans that support us a lot while we’re (at home), so I think it’s going to be a good test for us going on the road.””

    After facing the Bears (20-4) today through Sunday, the Wildcats will return to Tucson before traveling to Fullerton, Calif., for six games as part of the Judi Garman Classic March 15-18.

    Despite having several key players banged up with injuries, the Wildcats have won 12 of their past 13 games. They received a boost to the lineup as pitcher Sarah Akamine returned to the mound against Creighton in the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday night.

    The freshman, who had missed the previous five games due to arm soreness, allowed two earned runs while striking out six in Arizona’s 7-3 win over the Bluejays.

    Akamine said she is unsure what to expect as she prepares to pitch in a hostile environment for the first time in her collegiate career.

    “”I’m actually nervous, I’m very nervous,”” she said. “”I don’t know what to expect yet, but I’m expecting to be really competitive, and I’m excited.””

    No one will benefit more from Akamine’s return than ace Taryne Mowatt, who has been forced to shoulder the load in her absence.

    Mowatt (10-3), a junior, went the distance in all three games against Missouri over the weekend and the heavy lifting showed Sunday.

    Mowatt gave up 11 hits, walked nine and allowed seven earned runs but still managed to get the win as Arizona prevailed 8-7 thanks to third baseman Jenae Leles’ walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

    “”Just as long as I can shut them down when I need to and our team can come back and score when we need to, then I’m doing my job,”” Mowatt said.

    Just as the pitching staff has run into a little trouble, Arizona’s offense has started to heat up, primarily because of the senior trio at the top of the order.

    Six games ago, UA head coach Mike Candrea moved second baseman Chelsie Mesa up to the second spot in the batting order, putting her between fellow seniors Caitlin Lowe and Fox.

    Since the change, the trio has played lights-out, carrying the offense for the most part. In the six games Lowe, Mesa and Fox have combined to hit .484, score 22 runs, register 22 RBIs and steal 14 bases.

    The other six players in the lineup combined have hit .260, scored 18 runs, notched 18 RBIs and stolen five bases.

    Mesa is in the midst of a career-long 16-game hitting streak while Lowe was named the Pacific 10 Conference’s Player of the Week for her play in the Missouri series March 2-4.

    The duo leads the team in hitting with averages of .466 and .516, respectively.

    Meanwhile Fox, who has been forced to give up her spot in the field and become the designated player for the time being because of soreness in her surgically repaired right elbow, has been an RBI machine with 26 on the season and is tied with catcher Callista Balko for the team lead with six home runs.

    The Wildcats will need the offense to continue to score runs as they prepare for what Candrea calls “”our biggest challenge of the year.””

    The Bears are led by the pitching duo of senior Lisa Ferguson and freshman Kirsten Shortridge. Both come into the weekend with seven wins on the year and impressive ERAs of 1.82 and 1.59, respectively.

    Baylor’s offense is led by Tucson native Ashley Monceaux, an infielder. The Flowing Wells High School graduate and Pima College transfer is hitting .493 on the year and leads the Big 12 Conference in RBIs with 29.

    “”We’re definitely going to have to get on (Baylor) fast,”” Lowe said. “”I think playing in a really hostile environment where the fans are going to be yelling at us the whole time, we’re just going to have to maintain our composure and be able to relax.

    “”I’d really like to see us come out strong offensively and put a beating on them.””

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