Arizona Softball kicks off season at the Kajikawa Classic - Tucson News Now

Arizona Softball kicks off season at the Kajikawa Classic

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THE GAMES

Date                                     Time (PDT)             Opponent                         Location

  • Friday, Feb. 8              12:30 p.m.             Northwestern        Tempe Sports Complex (SE Field)
  • Friday, Feb. 8              5:30 p.m.               Bradley                  Tempe Sports Complex (SE Field)
  • Saturday, Feb. 9         9:00 a.m.               Cal Poly                  Tempe Sports Complex (SE Field)
  • Saturday, Feb. 9         2:00 p.m.               San Diego State     Tempe Sports Complex (SE Field)
  • Sunday, Feb. 10          8:30 a.m.               (14/15) Florida       Farrington Stadium

FOLLOW THE CATS

Live Audio: An online audio stream of the games will be available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ua-athletics

Live Stats: Find Gametracker links for all games at http://www.arizonawildcats.com/scoreboard/

Live Updates: Twitter: @UA_Softball (twitter.com/ua_softball) & Facebook: Arizona Athletics (facebook.com/arizonaathletics)

LEADING OFF

- 2013 marks the seventh consecutive year that Arizona has started its season at the Kajikawa Classic.

- Arizona has competed in the Kajikawa Classic (previously the ASU Invitational, Coca Cola Classic and Fiesta Bowl Classic) 15 times and has a 108-18 record. That's a .857 winning percentage.

- The 2013 Cats will feature nine newcomers (six freshmen and three transfers) to just seven returning players.

- Eight players are gone from the 2012 team and they take with them 60% of the runs scored, 52% of the hits, 80% of the home runs and 58% of the runs batted in from last year's team.

- Brigette Del Ponte, who moved from third base to shortstops due to a departure from the team weeks before the start of the season, sits in the Arizona top 10 in home runs (53 - 8th), RBI (195 - t10th) and assists (356 - 9th) and with just three doubles will crack the top 10 in that category (45-11th).

- In 2013, Arizona will debut copper helmets and a silver-to-blue ombre helmet in addition to its revamped traditional blue-to-red carbon ombre helmet. 

OPPONENTS:

Northwestern: The Wildcats (0-0) finished 2012 29-29 and 14-10 in the Big Ten. Northwestern is receiving votes in both the NFCA and the USA Softball polls. Marisa Bast is the leading offensive returner; Bast's .411 batting average, 13 home runs and 68 RBI led all Wildcat returners. Meghan Lamberth had a 3.62 ERA in 2012 while Amy Letourneau struck out 117 batters.

Series History: Arizona 15-2 // First Meeting: 1989 // Last Meeting: 2/13/2010; Arizona 4, Northwestern 3; Tempe, Ariz. (Kajikawa Classic)

Bradley: The Bears (0-0) finished 2012 21-30 and 11-15 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Bradley is unranked in both polls. Madeline Lynch-Crumine leads the Bears with a 2.64 ERA, 84 strikeouts and a .299 batting average at the plate. Bailiegh Basham's three home runs and 23 RBI lead all returners.

Series History: First meeting // First Meeting: N/A // Last Meeting: N/A

Cal Poly: The Mustangs (0-0) finished 2012 13-36 and 5-16 in the Big West. Cal Poly is unranked in both polls. Chloe Wurst returns to lead the way in the circle; Wurst's 2012 ERA of 4.71 and 51 strikeouts lead the team. Kim Westlund's .322 batting average and 25 RBI lead all returners

Series History: Arizona 2-0 // First Meeting: 2010 // Last Meeting: 2/13/2011; Arizona 14, Cal Poly 0 (5 innings); Tempe, Ariz. (Kajikawa Classic)

San Diego State: The Aztecs (0-0) finished 32-24 and 9-3 in the Mountain West Conference. San Diego State is unranked in both polls. Hayley Miles hit .429 in 2012 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI, good for top 60 nationally in all three categories. Miles also shines in the circle with 107 strikeouts last season.

Series History: Arizona 19-6 // First Meeting: 1982 // Last Meeting: 3/28/2012; Arizona 8, San Diego State 6 (8 innings); Tucson, Ariz.

Florida: The Gators (0-0) finished 2012 48-13 and 21-7 in the Southeastern Conference. Florida is ranked 14th by the NFCA and 15th by USA Softball.  Hannah Rogers' 1.06 ERA was sixth nationally in a 2012 season in which she struck out 202 batters. Lauren Haeger provides the power (14 HR, 52 RBI) while Kelsey Horton sets the table (.329 batting average) for the Gators.

Series History: Arizona 5-2 // First Meeting: 1997 // Last Meeting: 5/28/2009; Florida 3, Arizona 0; Oklahoma City, Okla. (Women's College World Series)

HEAD COACH MIKE CANDREA: Arizona head coach Mike Candrea is in his 28th year at the helm of the Arizona softball program with a career record of 1,310-296-2 (.815). A winner of eight national championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2006, 2007), Arizona has made 22 trips to the Women's College World Series under his guidance, missing just thrice in the last 25 years (2004, 2011, 2012). In 2012, Candrea became the sport's fastest ever, and second all-time, to reach 1,300 wins. Under Candrea, Arizona has a spectacular postseason record of 151-45. An even 50 All-Americans with a staggering 90 total citations have played in the program since Candrea took over.

THE RANKINGS: Arizonbegins the season ranked 13th in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll and 14th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25. The Wildcats finished 2012 ranked 13th in both polls.

RECENT RESULTS: The Wildcats were swept at the hands of Keilani Ricketts and the eventual national runner-up Oklahoma in the Norman Super Regional. Ricketts held Arizona to a .182 batting average and did not allow an earned run in 14 innings. OU outscored Arizona 13-1 in the two games. The lone Wildcat standout was Brigette Del Ponte, who hit .400 in the series.

May 25, 2012: Cats Drop Game One to Oklahoma - Thirteenth-seeded Arizona will have to sweep Saturday's doubleheader to continue its season after fourth-seeded Oklahoma beat the Cats 6-0 on Friday.

Arizona recorded seven hits and had runners in scoring position in each of the three first innings but could not score. UA did not have an extra-base hit in the game.

OU hurler Keilani Ricketts dealt the complete-game shutout that included nine strikeouts and just one walk. Ricketts improved to 32-8 on the season.

Arizona starter Shelby Babcock allowed six runs on eight hits in the loss. Babcock walked four, hit three and struck out six in her complete-game effort. Babcock fell to 21-10 on the season.

May 26, 2012: Arizona Eliminated by Oklahoma - Fourth-seeded Oklahoma (50-8) routed 13th-seeded Arizona (38-19) to get to the Women's College World Series for the second consecutive season, leaving Arizona home in June for just the third time in the last 25 years.

The Sooners plated five runs in the first inning and cruised to a 7-1 win in game two of the NCAA Super Regional.

Arizona fell short of the 40-win mark for just the first time since 1986 with the loss.

Kenzie Fowler allowed seven runs on nine hits while walking five, hitting one and striking out two in five and a third innings of work. Fowler allowed the first six batters she faced to reach and issued a pair of RBI free passes in the first inning. Fowler finished the season 15-9 on the season. Shelby Babcock relieved Fowler with one out in the sixth inning and retired five of the six batters she faced.

OU starter Keilani Ricketts did not allow an earned run in her three-hit, 13-strikeout complete game. At one point, Ricketts struck out nine straight Wildcats from the third to the fifth inning. Ricketts improved to 33-7 on the season.

WHO'S HOT?

Brigette Del Ponte: The senior put up mind-blowing numbers in the fall when she recorded a hit in 16 of her 24 at-bats (.667) including six doubles and a home run. Del Ponte drove in six runs and scored 11 of her own. In the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Del Ponte was 10-for-14, meaning she is 26-of-her-last-38 (including fall exhibition season), good for an unconscious .684 batting average.

Alex Lavine: The junior has compiled just a .224 batting average in her two seasons. That was before she switched to left side of the plate and began slapping. Seeing her first collegiate pitching from the opposite side of the plate, Lavine batted .583 in the fall in 12 at-bats.

Chelsea Goodacre: Goodie batted in 14 runs while slugging an even 1.000 in the fall. When half of your hits land over the fence (4-of-8), it's easy to see how. The sophomore batted .364 in eight games.

Mandie Perez: Though the freshman had just five hits in the fall, she made them count. Perez notched a double, a triple and a home run while batting in eight and scoring four runs.

Nancy Bowling: The freshman led all pitchers in ERA in the fall while going 2-0 and posting a stellar K/BB ratio of 29/2. Bowling made five fall appearances and put together a couple of standout outings. Bowling pitched four innings of a perfect game and in another game struck out 11 of the 13 batters she faced, including nine-in-a-row at one point.

A FAMILIAR BEGINNING: This year marks the seventh consecutive season (and ninth overall) Arizona has begun its season in Tempe for the Kajikawa Classic. Arizona is 31-10 when starting the season there. Overall, the Wildcats are making their 26th trip to the tournament, formally known as the ASU Invitational, Coca Cola Classic and Fiesta Bowl Classic. UA carries an overall record of 108-18 in the event.

2012 AT A GLANCE: UA finished 37-19 in 2012, failing to reach 40 wins for the first time since 1986. Arizona's win total, however, was affected by the six rainouts Arizona experienced during the season. The Wildcats' 12-12 conference record tied them for fourth in the Pac-12. As the 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Arizona hosted its own regional, going 3-0 and outscoring its opponents 26-5 to advance to the super regionals. In the next round, however, Arizona would not enjoy similar fortune. UA traveled to the Norman Super Regional to face fourth-seeded Oklahoma. The Cats were outscored 13-1 and eliminated from the tournament. This marked the third time in 25 years and second-consecutive season in which Arizona failed to make the Women's College World Series.

FRESH FACES: Nine Wildcats will be putting on the Arizona uniform for the first time this weekend. Compare that to just seven returning players. Three of the nine newbies are junior transfers -- Kellie Fox (UCLA - ingeligible to compete this season due to NCAA transfer rules), Estela Piñon (Yavapai College) and Kelsey Rodriguez (Pacific) -- and six are freshmen -- Nancy Bowling (Simi Valley, Calif.), Mandie Perez (Whittier, Calif.), Courtney Rodriguez (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Gabby Sandstedt (Glendale, Ariz.), Darcy Taylor (Jenks, Okla.) and Lauren Young (Anaheim Hills, Calif.).

FAMILY TIES: In 27 years, head coach Mike Candrea has never had sisters come through the program, in 2013, he has two pairs. Siblings Kelsey and Courtney Rodriguez are the first pair of sisters to ever be on the same Wildcat team. UCLA transfer Kellie Fox is the sister of former Wildcat shortstop and two-time national champion Kristie Fox (04-07).

BDP: In just three seasons, Brigette Del Ponte already finds herself in the Arizona career top 10 for home runs (8th - 53), runs batted in (t10th - 195) and assists (9th - 356).

ALL-CONFERENCE: Four Wildcats were named all-Pac-12 in 2012, two of whom return. Brigette Del Ponte and Hallie Wilson were named to the conference's second team. Shelby Pendley, who left the team after her freshman season, was named to the first team and departed senior Lini Koria joined Del Ponte and Wilson on the second team. Current Arizona undergraduate assistant coach Jessica Spigner received honorable mention kudos. Pendley and Wilson were also named to the conference's all-freshman team. Chelsea Goodacre and Chelsea Suitos received honorable mention citations for first-year-players.

AT THE KAJIKAWA: Arizona's seven returners have made a combined 58 appearances at the Kajikawa Classic. Brigette Del Ponte has hit it well in the tournament; the senior has posted a .395 average with five doubles and five home runs while driving in 12 runs in three years at the Kajikawa. In her first collegiate action in 2012, Hallie Wilson posted a .455 average while clouting five doubles and scoring five runs.     

NEARING THE CENTURY MARK:  Kenzie Fowler has 79 career wins, eighth most in program history. With 21 wins in 2013, Fowler would become the eighth pitcher in Wildcat history to reach the 100-win milestone (Alicia Hollowell - 134, Nancy Evans - 124, Jennie Finch - 119, Carrie Dolan - 103, Becky Lemke - 103, Susie Parra - 101 and Taryne Mowatt - 100). Fowler is also on pace to become the fourth pitcher in school history to strike out one thousand batters. Her quest to 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts will be hampered, though, by her recovery from back surgery, which will keep her out of the first month, or so, of the season.  

UP NEXT: Arizona hosts the Hillenbrand Invitational Feb. 15-17. The Cats welcome in Nebraska, Drake, Southern Utah, Purdue and Utah State for the three-day, 15-game event.

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