No. 1 Cats Take Best-Ever Record to Oregon

April 19, 2004

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This Week

The Arizona softball team takes its unbeaten league record (7-0) on the road for the third successive week to play at Oregon State and a pair of games at Oregon. The Beavers are 36-15 overall and 2-7 in league play, while Oregon (32-11 record and third-place 6-3 Pac-10 mark) will first entertain Arizona State on Friday before meeting UA. The Cats, at 43-1 overall, are off to the best start in school history. The 1994 team that finished 64-3, and the 1995 team that finished 66-6, had the best previous records of 38-1 before a second loss. The Oregon State game will be tape delayed by Fox Sports Net for showing on Fox Sports Net Arizona at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Coaches

Larry Ray (Idaho State '74) is 43-1 in his tenure as acting head coach of the Wildcats. Including five seasons (four of competition) building a Florida program he has a career record of 212-107. His work with the Arizona program dates to 1986 and he was Candrea's top assistant for 10 years. Acting associate head coach Nancy Evans, a former Honda Award winner as a player, has been an assistant at UA since 1999. UA's start of 34-0 to open the year gave Ray the best start in Arizona history.

The Coach

Arizona's Mike Candrea carries a career record of 982-191 in 18 years at UA, but put it on hold this season while he's on partial leave to be head coach of the U.S. Olympic Team. The eight-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year is a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He has led Arizona to six national championships and seven Pac-10 titles. Candrea has led UA to 16 consecutive College World Series.

Last Week

Arizona traveled to the Bay Area and took games from No. 10 Stanford (8-0) and No. 4 California (2-0 and 3-2). Alicia Hollowell won all three decisions, allowing no earned runs in 22 innings pitched while striking out 25. She improved to 30-0 on the year. The UA run-ruled Stanford in six innings Friday, then needed extra innings in both games against the Bears. Wendy Allen's three-run homer in the first inning at Stanford started the action and she later drove in two more runs in the sixth to give UA the eight-run margin. At Cal, Mackenzie Vandergeest clouted an eighth-inning home run to provide the 2-0 victory in the first game. In the Sunday game, Caitlin Lowe scored the winning run on a wild pitch. Lowe went six-for-11 on the weekend, plus scored five runs. Hollowell threw a two-hitter and struck out 10 in the Saturday shutout.

The Rankings

UA has been No. 1 for five weeks, giving it the top spot in the NFCA poll at least once every year since 1993. Arizona was ranked No. 2 in the preseason NFCA poll, and No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll. Feb. 11: 2/3. Feb. 18: 2/3. Feb. 25: 2/2. March 3: 2/2. March 10: 2/2. March 17: 1/1. March 24: 1/1. March 30:1/1. April 7: 1/1. April 14: 1/1. April 21: TBA. UA has been ranked steadily since 1988 by the NFCA.

Players of the Week

Pitcher Alicia Hollowell earned the Pac-10 weekly honor four times this year - Feb. 24, March 2, March 9 and March 22. She also was USA Softball National Player of the Week March 22 after five victories at the Kia Klassic. Outfielder Autumn Champion won league Player of the Week honors Feb. 17, Wendy Allen won Feb. 24, and soph first baseman Shelly Schultz won April 13 after her two hits both beat No. 2 UCLA in successive games. Those are the 89th Pac-10 weekly honors for UA, and ninth for Hollowell in her short career.

Wildcat Softball Notes

...Caitlin Lowe has 65 runs scored in 44 games, putting her within 10 runs of checking in at No. 8 on the Arizona single-season Top 10 chart. Former All-American sluggers Leah Braatz (75), Laura Espinoza (75) and Jenny Dalton (74) occupy Nos. 8-10... has scored at least one run in 40 games and two or more runs in 19 different games including a season-high four against Western Michigan on Feb. 15... ...Lowe and sophomore left fielder Autumn Champion continue to dazzle at the top of the order. Champion has 41 runs scored and leads the club with a .484 average to Lowe's .478. It's improbable as crunch time arrives in the late season, but those averages would be the No. 4 and 5 best marks in UA single-season history... Cracking that chart puts someone on the who's who list in modern college softball history. The two young players do have what nearly everyone on the list had - speed... ...More of the same came last week for Wendy Allen, UA's three-hole hitter - RBI. The season- and career-high five RBI at Stanford pushed her to 60 for the year. Former All-American catcher Leah Braatz is No. 10 on UA's chart with 78 RBI in 1997... Allen's a modest home run hitter (six this year, nine in two seasons at UA), but sprays the ball around and has a team-high 20 extra-base hits... ...Senior catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest has quietly been rounding into top hitting form after hitting .243 through 25 games. She's now at .285 and leads the team with 13 home runs, plus trails Allen by only a couple with 58 RBI... Vandergeest's 58 career home runs are the fourth-most in UA history and the most by a UA player since Jenny Dalton won the Honda Award after notching her 76th round-tripper in 1996... The career total also rates in at No. 7 in Pac-10 history... ...Alicia Hollowell's 30-0 pitching record finally cracked the Top 15 single-season chart for UA. She's tied at No. 14 with Jennie Finch (29-2) and Becky Lemke (29-8), who posted those marks in 2000... In less than two full years, Hollowell has struck out 764 batters, the fourth best total in UA history. She owns the season mark with 394 last year... Hollowell owns UA's top victories total with her 40-5 record last year. Finch set the NCAA record for percentage with a 32-0 season in 2001...Hollowell's 70 career victories put her within one of passing Teresa Cherry (71-33 from 1985-88) into the No. 6 spot on UA's career chart... Her 764 strikeouts are 55 shy of cracking the Pac-10 career chart... ...It's not likely UA will be considered one of its best home run hitting teams this year, with 57 total, 12 shy of the top five mark of 79 by the 1998 team... A year ago UA hit 70... ...With part of just one season as the head coach, UA's Larry Ray has ascended to No. 22 on the Pac-10's career coaching victories chart with his 43-1 mark... Ten more victories would put him at No. 18... ...They made no attempts last week, but Caitlin Lowe and Autumn Champion have combined at the top of the order for 62 stolen bases in 66 attempts. Lowe has been caught stealing just once this season. Her total of 39 steals is No. 6 in UA history and trails No. 2 (Vivian Holm, 49-53 in 1987) by 10. The season record is 67 by Alison McCutcheon in 1998... ...Hollowell, Wendy Allen and Leslie Wolfe have combined for 479 strikeouts in 289 innings pitched, an average of 11.6 per seven innings... The pace would blow away the school-record 9.8 strikeouts per seven innings pitched by the 2001 team staffed by Jennie Finch, Becky Lemke and Jenny Gladding... Those three struck out a record total of 632 in 452 innings pitched... ...Champion, Lowe and Hollowell were all named among 25 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award earlier in April... ...Arizona has outscored opponents 316-53, but has proven it's a tough team in close games. Roughly one-third of the 44 games have been decided by three runs or less and UA is 14-1 in those contests... ...Arizona has put in a bid to play host for an NCAA Division I Softball Championships regional to be held at eight sites around the country. The field of 64 for the tournament will be selected Sunday, May 16... ...After this week's trip, the Cats are home for an April 28 match vs. ASU, then host the Bay Area and Oregon schools on successive weekends...

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