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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Right up the middle

Valentina Martinelli/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Valentina Martinelli
Valentina Martinelli/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Looking up and down the lineup card for the No. 3 Arizona softball team, any one of the names could strike fear in every pitcher in Division I softball.

Junior catcher Stacie Chambers, third baseman Brigette Del Ponte and designated player Lini Koria are the driving force behind the heart of the nation’s best offense.

Although the Wildcats are stacked from the one spot through the nine spot, it’s the middle of the lineup that intimidates its Pacific 10 Conference opponents.

“”The middle of our lineup continues to drive in all of our runs,”” said head coach Mike Candrea. “”When we’re really good is when we’re getting people on base ahead of them. It’s a balance more than anything. Some days it’s there. Some days it’s not.””

This weekend, the trio did damage in every game against the No. 10 Stanford Cardinal. In Game 1, Del Ponte cashed in on an opportunity after Chambers doubled to give Arizona the 1-0 advantage. Game 2 saw Chambers’ two-run walk off give the Wildcats enough to run rule the Cardinal on Saturday. Game 3 saw Chambers and

Del Ponte go deep back-to-back in the third inning. It was Koria, however, who was the hero after her 11th homer proved to be the difference in a 5-4 win for the weekend sweep over Stanford.

The Wildcats entered this weekend second in scoring with 7.82 runs per game, falling just .03 behind ASU’s 7.85. This weekend the Arizona Wildcats rattled off 18 runs to the Sun Devil’s four, putting them in the No. 1 spot.

Just among their own team, Chambers, Del Ponte and Koria are the top three in nearly every offensive category, including batting average, home runs per game, runs batted in and slugging percentage. As of Saturday, the trio of Wildcats is among the leaders in the conference in home runs and RBIs.

The strength of the middle of the lineup is nothing new for Candrea and the Wildcats.

Although Chambers’ numbers this season haven’t chased those of last, her bat is beginning to get red hot in conference play, something that didn’t happen last year. Through nine Pac-10 games, she’s batting .500 with 13 hits and 12 RBIs. Her slugging percentage is a remarkable 1.077, considering she does not see prime pitches.

“”I think (Chambers) has done well,”” Candrea said. “”She’s taken what she gets and she’s doing something with it.”” Last season, teams tried to stay away from home run queen Chambers, only to run into former Wildcat first baseman Sam Banister, who would deliver the punishing blow. This season, Chambers has been walked 37 times and it’s been Del Ponte who has filled Banister’s shoes, going deep 17 times. She also has four grand slams on the season and has cashed in a nation-leading 58 RBIs.

“”Brigette takes her cuts. She’s not going to get cheated,”” Candrea said. “”That’s one kid that I really believe is going to compete and battle up there. She’s going to go down swinging.””

Although teams try to break up the power hitting between power leadoff hitter Brittany Lastrapes and the speedy Karissa Buchanan at the bottom of the order, the middle of the lineup gets it done for Arizona. The trio’s 130 RBIs make up almost half of all runs Arizona has scored this season.

It hasn’t just been the big hit for Chambers, Del Ponte and Koria. Although the threat is always there, the three don’t often miss opportunities. Whether a walk-off home run or a timely double, the three Wildcats in the middle have sparked the offense in the

close games.

“”Whatever it takes to get on base,”” Del Ponte said. “”You never know when that one walk, that one hit-by-pitch is going to win the game.””

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