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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Softball debuts season searching for new identity

    Arizona’s softball team takes the field today at the Tempe Sports Complex against Kansas and the UTEP in their first of five games in the Kajikawa Classic.

    UA head coach Mike Candrea will tweak his lineups in a weekend filled with five games and two double-headers. With so many unanswered questions about the Wildcats’ pitching, defense and maturity, the competitions will be a chance to see which players will shine in the spotlight.

    “”I’ve always tried to go with match-ups,”” Candrea said. “”I go with the pitcher that will match up with what a team will try to do. We need someone who can get us off to a good start.””

    Against Kansas, that pitcher will be sophomore Lindsey Sisk, who has been battling Sarah Akamine for the starting position, coming into her second year after going 10-3 as a freshman with a 1.62 ERA. The Wildcats will certainly need to find a new presence in terms of pitching after losing star hurler Taryne Mowatt after last season.

    Her counterpart for the Jayhawks will be Tucson native and Sabino High School graduate Valerie George, who last year had a 1.96 ERA and finished last season with a 18-10 record.

    With just two and a half hours between game times, Arizona will face a UTEP team that handed Arizona one of their 19 losses last season. And in light of the double-header, Akamine will have her chance on the mound, hoping to show that the pitching staff is more than one-deep.

    Saturday’s competition heats up with another double-header, but this time will feature two top-25 teams and will be played at ASU’s Farrington Stadium. Arizona will play an early 10 a.m. game against No. 9 Northwestern, then face No. 23 Nevada at 12:30 p.m.

    Arizona’s hitters will have to be swinging well against Northwestern’s Lauren Delaney, who was the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. If not, the untested defense will be even more counted upon, something that may be too much to ask at this point in the year.

    “”We are making progress and like I told them, when you get on a roller coaster ride, the roller coaster goes slow when it goes up,”” Candrea said. “”I think we’ve got to have patience, but I’m anxious to get started and see where we’re at.””

    Nevada also has a strong all-around team, with pitcher Katie Holverson coming off a 22-6 season and All-American sophomore Noelle Micka ready to jump on any poor pitches. Micka’s 2008 campaign yielded a 0.399 batting average and she led her team with 27 multi-hit games.

    Before Arizona heads back to Tucson, they’ll play one last game against UC Santa Barbara at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Gauchos may be vulnerable on defense as their inexperienced pitching staff could fall victim to a dangerous Wildcat offense.

    Even with the pressure to perform and the need to prove critics wrong, this Wildcat team appears anxious just to see the field. With the expectations seemingly piled on their shoulders, players like Sisk and Akamine will be tested early and often, but they are ready to prove doubters wrong.

    “”Our whole staff is really strong right now, and I think we’ll surprise a lot of people when it comes to game time,”” Akamine said. “”I’m nervous, but excited.””

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