Cats, Aggies Clash in Midweek Doubleheader

March 16, 2009

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Cats, Aggies Clash in Wednesday Doubleheader


Up Next: After going 3-2 at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats (26-7) remain on the road to close out their non-conference slate, traveling to Las Cruces, N.M. to take on the New Mexico State Aggies.


Wednesday, March 18      at New Mexico State, 4 p.m. MT (Softball Complex)

                                                at New Mexico State, 6 p.m. MT


Latest Arizona Lineup:

LF – Brittany Lastrapes

2B – Kristen Arriola

3B – Jenae Leles

C – Stacie Chambers

RF – Sam Banister

DP – Lini Koria

1B – Laine Roth

SS – Victoria Kemp

CF – Lauren Schutzler

P – Sarah Akamine, Jennifer Martinez, Lindsey Sisk


Noting the Aggies: NMSU (19-8) is led by freshman Tiare Jennings, averaging .477 at the plate. The Turlock, Calif. native has slammed nine home runs and 35 RBI, while accounting for 42 hits and 28 runs scored with a .864 slugging percentage. She is one of three Aggies averaging over .400 at the dish. In the circle, NMSU touts two eight-win pitchers: senior Kim Watson (8-5) and junior Vanessa Fitzgerald (8-2). The senior has accumulated a 1.85 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 91 innings, while the junior carries a 3.69 ERA with 47 whiff balls in 55 innings pitched. Both have issued a combined 45 walks.


Over the Weekend: On Friday, Arizona had some trouble holding the lead against Texas, allowing three runs in the final inning but holding on for a 6-5 win. Brittany Lastrapes hit a leadoff home run as Sarah Akamine picked up the win with Jennifer Martinez picking up her first career save. Later in the day, Stacie Chambers hit her third grand slam of the year in a five-run first inning, and hit a three-run shot in the fourth to propel the Cats to a 9-1 five-inning win. Akamine picked up her second win of the day.


Saturday started off ugly for UA, with Akamine being pulled during a four-run first for Penn State. Arizona mustered a rally late, but four more runs in the sixth for the Nittany Lions thwarted the comeback effort as UA fell 9-6. Sarah Akamine took the loss as her younger sister, Lisa, was credited with the win for Penn State. Arizona took out its frustration on Notre Dame, pounding out 10 runs on 11 hits in a 10-1 five-inning victory. Chambers hit two home runs, and Sam Banister and Victoria Kemp hit one. Through the two games, Chambers hit four homers in consecutive at-bats – a school record.


Sunday was a near repeat of last season’s matchup against Michigan. Nikki Nemitz held Arizona to two hits and a goose egg on the scoreboard – as she did in 2008 – as Michigan cruised to a 4-0 win. Jennifer Martinez took the loss for UA, giving up three earned runs on 11 hits.


Track the Cats: Free GameTracker live stats sponsored by Tucson Electric Power, are provided for all home games and many road games (depending on Internet access) via  Many road opponents provide the service through their web sites as well. All-Access video streaming of home games also is available through UA’s web site. A number of games will be broadcast by UA partner IMG Sports and KTUC 1400 AM Radio. Those games are noted on the schedule to the left.

Top of the Line Coaching: Arizona's coaching staff includes three mentors who have taken a combined 27 different teams to the Women's College World Series as head coaches -- Mike Candrea's 19, one by assistant Larry Ray (filling in for Candrea during the 2008 Olympic year) and seven by assistant Teresa Wilson. Thrown in former UA star Amy Hillenbrand (née Chellevold), the volunteer coach and first Wildcat to be named an All-American all four years of her playing days (1992-95), and you add four WCWS as a player and five more as an assistant to Candrea from 1996-2000. That's a whole lot of teaching at the top level of the game. It's as good a staff as exists in collegiate softball, and arguably the best. Candrea's leadership and strategy (notably defense), Ray's short game and outfield teaching, Wilson's pitching expertise and Hillenbrand's bat work and base running fundamentals give Arizona the full complement.


Arizona Head Coach Mike Candrea: Candrea enters his 24th season at the helm of the Arizona softball program. He boasts a 1,157-235-2 (.831) record in 21 seasons in the dugout. In the two seasons away from Tucson, he coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in Athens, Greece and a silver in Beijing, China. He was named a finalist for USOC Coach of the Year on March 19, 2008, and won the award in 2004. In January, he was inducted into the inaugural Hall Of Fame class at Central Arizona College. Candrea also was awarded the Olympic Shield award, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s most prestigious award, marking the first time in history the award was given to an Olympic coach.  He has led Arizona to eight national championships, 10 Pac-10 titles and is one of just five Division I coaches to have won over 1,100 career games.


Assistant Coach Larry Ray: In 2008, Ray assumed the position of interim head coach and took the team to their 20th WCWS appearance in 21 years. Ray has a 265-131 (.669) career record as a head coach, and five NCAA Championships as an assistant. He possesses a powerful combination of head coaching experience and familiarity with Arizona softball. Ray spent five years as Florida’s first head coach, and in 1998 he was named the SEC Coach of the Year after leading the Gators to an SEC Eastern Division title and a trip to the NCAA Regional Championships. He returned to Arizona in 2002, and in 2004 he led the Wildcats to a 55-6 record and a Pacific-10 Championship.


Assistant Coach Teresa Wilson: Wilson joined the staff in October after establishing herself as a nationally recognized mentor at four programs as head coach. She has 15 years of Pac-10 head coaching experience and most recently held the reigns at Texas Tech, after stints at Oregon, Minnesota and Washington. Wilson has led her teams to seven WCWS appearances and took Washington to 10 final top-15 standings in the polls. The Pickering, Mo. native pitched at Missouri, earning All-American honors her senior year after leading the Tigers to an AIAW and two WCWS appearances. She is the first person to both play and coach in the WCWS.


Volunteer Assistant Amy Hillenbrand: Hillenbrand has worked as an elite athlete representative for the ASA board of directors for the last 10 years, and also sat on the board oversight committee. She has also served on the selection committee for the U.S Women's National Team since 2004, and now serves as the athlete representative to the U.S. Olympic Committee for the sport of softball.

On the playing side, Hillenbrand left the college game in 1995 as the NCAA career leader in hits (371) and runs (252), plus finished at UA with a career batting average of .415, the top mark on Arizona's chart until Alison McCutcheon eclipsed her mark in 1998. Hillenbrand's career average is one of only nine Wildcats above .400.


Up Against RBI History: Stacie Chambers has a superlative 66 RBI in 33 games, 2 per contest. That kind of pace is difficult to keep up for a full season, indeed. It also underscores some of the historically significant run producers in the Arizona program. If Chambers did stay on that track, with about three dozen games left in the regular season, she'd finish at around 99 RBI. That would be the fourth-best total in Arizona single-season history behind the NCAA-record 129 by Laura Espinoza in 1995, 109 by Jenny Dalton in 1996 and 100 by Leah Braatz in 1998. She clearly has a shot at the most recent high total, 79 by eventual Olympic gold medalist Lovie Jung in 2003, the No. 9 figure in UA history. Reaching the top 10 chart will take 78 -- the number of RBI Braatz had in 1997.

Standout Performances: Three RBI in one game is a lot. Wildcats have done it individually 15 times this year. But, that's one level. Arizona has 21 4+ RBI games. Think that’s a lot? Stacie Chambers has had 5 5+ RBI games, her latest: a seven-RBI performance against New Mexico this past weekend.


Mercy Me: In a streak that ended last week, Arizona had won five consecutive games in five innings by way of the run-ahead rule. The last Arizona squad to accomplish this feat was the 1995 team that won six straight five inning games. Keep in mind, though, that the run-rule can also be enforced after the fifth. For example, the 2003 team had a streak of six games won by the mercy rule, however, one of those games went six innings.


Yard Ball Notes: Arizona has 70 home runs, 20 of those with no runners aboard. One reason for the solo-weighted jacks is that UA has ten leadoff homers to start innings. The club has eight grand slams: Stacie Chambers has three, while Sam Banister, Lini Koria, Kristen Arriola, K’Lee Arredondo and Brittany Lastrapes have one each. UA hit an astounding 31 home runs two weekends ago, and added 10 more this past weekend. Arizona has 147 HRBIs – runs batted in off of long balls – so far this season.


More Jack Smack: Some of Arizona’s bombs have come from the usual suspects, some not. Stacie Chambers leads the team and the Pac-10 conference with 19, including three grand slams; Jenae Leles upped her total to 11 a week ago; Freshman Lini Koria has nine jacks along with sophomore Brittany Lastrapes; Sam Banister has seven to her name; Laine Roth and Kristen Arriola have each hit four; Lauren Schutzler has belted two three home runs already; Victoria Kemp slammed her second homer of the season against Notre Dame, and Alicia Banks nabbed a pinch-hit homer against UTEP.


Going Streaking: Lauren Schutzler’s team-high 16-game hitting streak came to an end against Simon Fraser on last Wednesday. It was the longest streak in two seasons for the Wildcats. Lini Koria holds the team’s longest streak at nine games. K’Lee Arredondo trails with five, but will not make the trip to New Mexico because of a hamstring injury.


Who’s No. 1?: Jennifer Martinez has staked her claim to the rotation. The redshirt senior from La Habra, Calif. has tallied a team-low 1.99 ERA strikeouts in 45.2 innings pitched. She touts a record of 3-1 with 50 strikeouts. She is certainly giving Sarah Akamine (13-4, 2.21 ERA) and Lindsey Sisk (10-2, 2.88 ERA) a run for their money.


Double Trouble: Brittany Lastrapes has taken the doubles lead on the team. With 14, she sits five shy of K’Lee Arredondo’s mark from last season. Arredondo sits third on the single-season doubles list with 19, a mark that Lastrapes is on track to eclipse. Arredondo had three in the first four games this season. In historical perspective, Arredondo needs just eight more to crack the UA career top-10 for doubles.


Late-Inning Goods: The Cats could use some better focus at the plate at the ends of games. UA has played 14 run-shortened games (all victories) so the late innings have come at a somewhat discounted rate. Still, the Cats have scored 65, 39, 70, and 58 runs in the first through fourth innings and a combined 66 afterward including 12 in seventh innings. In the last four seasons, UA has compiled a 134-2 record when leading after five innings, and a 130-1 mark when ahead after six. Conversely, the Cats were 2-16 when trailing after four innings and one win fewer after five in 2008. UA dropped all 17 decisions when down after six and since 2005, Arizona is 2-49 when trailing in the final frame. If there was one tenet coach Mike Candrea has preached in his quarter-century of excellence at Arizona, it's to finish games.


Simple Reasoning: In Arizona's seven losses the opponents have scored 38 runs to 17 by the Cats. That will do it. In its victories the average score is Arizona 9, Opponents 2... UA is on pace to score well over 300 runs for the year, something it's done every year since 1992 except for the 2005 campaign when it checked in with 261. The club one away already at 299 runs, an average of 9.6 per contest.

Where are the Bats?: Arizona was outhit by both Texas and New Mexico on Friday. Fortunately, the contests were both W’s for the Cats. They account for the only two wins when being outhit by an opponent this season. UA was 3-11 when being outhit last season.


Friendly Confines: Over 6,500 people came through the Hillenbrand Stadium gates to watch the home opening weekend. With five dates this past week, 11,706 people passed through the Hillenbrand gates. The numbers are on track to break records for attendance in a single season. Right now, the Cats are averaging 2,308 per game, as opposed to 1,900 – last’s season’s total.


Run Support: Arizona has scored 118 runs and scattered 137 hits when Akamine is the pitcher of record. UA has picked up their offensive output for Lindsey Sisk as the season has rolled along. As of now, they have tallied 119 runs on 121 hits with Sisk tossing the rock. A theme last season, Akamine had the most run support of the three pitchers; Taryne Mowatt had a run-support ratio of 2½ Arizona runs to every 1 opponent run, Sisk was 4:1, and Akamine was 8:1.


Plenty of Ammunition: Arizona hit 94 home runs last season -- the third-highest team total in history -- with ’09 returners accounting for 78 of them. Jenae Leles (17), Stacie Chambers (15), Laine Roth (15) and Sam Banister (10) each hit their fair share of long balls. The team also led the nation in home runs per game. Toss in California’s all-time high school career home run leader in Lini Koria, who led the team in jacks in the fall, and UA is stacked for another run to the top of the national charts.


The Rankings: Arizona sat at seventh in both the NFCA/USA Today and the USA Softball/ preseason rankings.’s Graham Hays picked Arizona at No. 9 in his preseason poll, and the Pac-10 coaches’ poll placed Arizona at No. 4 in the conference. Arizona has been ranked No. 1 in the country for at least part of the year every season since 1991. This week Arizona is ranked 12th in NFCA poll and 13th in the USA Softball/ poll.


Smarty Cats: Shortstop K’Lee Arredondo was named to last season’s Pac-10 All-Academic first team, and outfielder Jill Malina was named to the 2007 Pac-10 All-Academic second team.


Arizona Softball in Historical Perspective: Arizona began play in 1974 and sports an all-time record of 1,513-436-2. The Cats are 355-95-1 in Pac-10 play, which began in 1987. Since 1982 and NCAA Division I Championships play began, Arizona is 1,339-330-2. UA has appeared in 22 NCAA Championships, has won the Women’s College World Series eight times in 20 trips, and has secured 10 Pac-10 titles.


Turnstiles Turning – Again: Through 16 seasons in Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, Arizona has a record of 496-39, including a home field winning streak of 70 games from May 5, 2000 to April 6, 2002, which is still an NCAA record. In Pac-10 games alone, UA touts a 174-25 record, and has a 51-5 record in NCAA action. Looking at the records, it’s not hard to see what keeps the fans coming back for more. Hillenbrand Stadium’s aggregate attendance mark passed 500,000 last season, helped by the seventh highest attended game in history – a 7-6 Saturday night comeback win against Oregon State on April 26. UA has led the nation in attendance per game the last three seasons and since its opening, Hillenbrand Stadium has been able to call itself the national champion just as many times as the team has. Call (520) 621-CATS or log on to for ticket information.


USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year “Watch List:” Senior third baseman Jenae Leles and sophomore outfielder Brittany Lastrapes were named to the exclusive 50-name preseason list. Arizona is scheduled to face many of the highly-touted players.


Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award Watch: Jenae Leles was named to the 30 player list for the award. Laine Roth was named to the preseason list along with Leles, and Caitlin Lowe won the inaugural award in 2007.


Wildcat Signees: The Arizona coaching staff signed three high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during the November early signing period. Brigette DelPonte (C/INF, Sunrise Mountain High School, Peoria, Ariz.) Kenzie Fowler (P, Canyon del Oro High School, Tucson, Ariz.), Baillie Kirker (3B/1B, Crescenta Valley High School, Montrose, Calif.) and Rebecca Tikey (OF, Horizon High School, Scottsdale, Ariz.) are all committed to enroll at the UA next fall.




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