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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Softball opens home slate in Invitational

    Right-handed pitcher Sarah Akamine winds up during Arizonas 4-3 win over Northwestern last weekend in Tempe. The freshman has a 1.21 ERA during the 2-0 start to her career.
    Right-handed pitcher Sarah Akamine winds up during Arizona’s 4-3 win over Northwestern last weekend in Tempe. The freshman has a 1.21 ERA during the 2-0 start to her career.

    The No. 4 Arizona softball team is back at home after a disappointing opening weekend.

    The Wildcats (4-2) host the Worth Wildcat Invitational today through Sunday at Hillenbrand Stadium.

    Arizona will face Temple (0-0) at 3 p.m. today and then Texas Tech (3-2) at 5 p.m.. It meets Virginia (5-2) and Middle Tennessee State (1-4) tomorrow before playing in a playoff format Sunday.

    Walk-off home runs felled Arizona against No. 19 Florida and No. 3 Texas A&M last weekend in Tempe.

    Players said they were confident the team’s problems are easily fixed, and that the early losses could be blessings in disguise.

    “”We definitely don’t like to lose as a team, but now we know that, yeah, we were the national champions last year (and) this year is a whole new ballgame, and we need to come out and play our best,”” said shortstop Kristie Fox. “”That’s what (last) weekend was – it was for us to learn where we’re at right now and what we need to work on. If it took us losing to do it, then so be it.””

    Getting better on offense has been the primary focus in practice all week. After exploding for 12 runs and six runs in their two games Friday, the Wildcats failed to score more than four runs in a game the rest of the weekend. They scored only one run in their loss to Florida and only two against A&M.

    “”I think we did a good job of getting runners on base. We just didn’t do a good job of moving them and getting them in,”” said center fielder Caitlin Lowe. “”Our pitchers did well enough to win, and I think that we need to help them out with some more run support.””

    But while the offense has room for improvement, pitching is the key in college softball, said UA head coach Mike Candrea.

    Although ace Taryne Mowatt gave up the two walk-offs and four other homers in 22 1/3 innings, she showed flashes of dominance, striking out 11 in two appearances and 33 on the weekend.

    Mowatt said she has bounced back mentally from her setbacks.

    “”Those are learning experiences,”” she said. “”It is the first weekend of the year and, yeah, it sucks, but you just have to learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.””

    Also encouraging for the Wildcats is the emergence of No. 2 starter Sarah Akamine.

    After getting a win in her first collegiate game Friday, Akamine went 6.1 strong innings against then-No. 4 Northwestern, the team Arizona defeated to win the national championship in June. She gave up only one earned run and strruck out six as Arizona won 4-3.

    “”She did amazing. I think she came out and surprised everyone,”” Lowe said. “”She was throwing the big game for us and she really maintained her confidence the whole time, and that’s really big to see from a freshman.””

    The Wildcats begin the first of 15 straight games at home against unranked opponents.

    “”We need to play like it’s the championship game every time and not play the name game and think, ‘Oh, they can’t beat us because that’s so-and-so,’ because anybody can beat anybody,”” said third baseman Jenae Leles.

    “”(Last weekend) was a reality check that we do have a target on our back and we’re going to see everybody’s best game.””

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