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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball trying to rebound from first missed WCWS in 24 years

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Tim Glass
Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA softball team plays an exhibition game against Yavapai College, October 3, 2010. (Photo by Tim Glass)

The Arizona softball program — one of the most prolific in NCAA history with eight national championships — took a step back last season.

Last season was the first in 24 years that the Wildcats were not among the eight teams to reach the Women’s College World Series. But if there was ever a team that looked as though its fire was relit, it was the softball team this fall.

“After last year’s finish, we have regrouped and looked at where we feel we need to be and why we didn’t get there,” said head coach Mike Candrea in a press release. “I feel extremely good about this group; they’ve worked extremely hard. Their energy level has been great and their commitment to our ultimate goal has been revitalized.”

The fall schedule didn’t feature any teams that will give Arizona fits during the regular season, but instead allowed it to try things out and see what worked best for its deep and talented lineup which includes two All-Americans.

The Wildcats’ power and pitching were on display this fall, as they only trailed in one game, outscored opponents 91-5, and in one game had more grand slams (two) than the opposition had baserunners (one).

The team boasts five seniors — second baseman Kristen Arriola, outfielders Karissa Buchanan and Nicole Bryan, catcher/first baseman Lini Koria and Jessica Spigner, a high-profile senior transfer from Tennessee. These athletes will give the Wildcats a steady foundation that will be able to guide five freshmen taking on extensive roles right out of high school.

“I think our senior class has tasted a little bit of everything,” said Candrea. “They’ve been to the championship game of the World Series and they’ve been on a team that felt what it was like not to make it to the World Series. It’s always a nice thing to have seniors that are playing a valuable role on your team, which is our case this year.”

The focal point of Arizona’s game plan in 2012 will be the offense. The ‘Cats’ bats were white-hot in fall games, blasting 17 balls out of the park in nine games, including five from freshman Chelsea Goodacre and four from junior Brigette Del Ponte.

“You’re going to see a team that can do a lot of things offensively,” Candrea said. “Our short game will be above-average. But our strength is going to be our ability to swing the bat. We have pretty deep power throughout our lineup.”

Arizona’s lineup is stacked for what could be a magical season in Hillenbrand Stadium, and the Wildcats don’t want last season lingering in fans’ minds.

“We want to compete,” Del Ponte said. “We want to let people know that we’re Arizona softball and you’re going to have to work really hard to beat us.”

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