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Arizona softball team seeks spark as postseason begins

The last 21 Arizona teams coach by Mike Candrea have reached the College World Series. Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

The Arizona softball coaching staff searched, unsuccessfully, for game tape on its first NCAA regional opponent, Harvard.

Perhaps it didn’t matter much.

“It’s more about us,” said Wildcats coach Mike Candrea.

He has spent the week — OK, most of the season, really — trying to fire up a self-described quiet team, one that has had trouble maintaining a high level of emotion and intensity.

If not now, when?

The postseason starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Hillenbrand Stadium.

“Anybody who walks into that ballpark, wearing that uniform, without the energy we need should not be in it,” Candrea said. “If you can’t get yourself ready to play a regional in Hillenbrand Stadium right now, then we have issues.”

He’ll be looking for a quick start tonight against the Crimson, which is 35-14 and has won 10 consecutive games.

Arizona lost its final two regular-season games, but Candrea has seen previously slumbering teams catch fire at the right time of the season. Can the Cats show that same spark this year?

Said senior outfielder Brittany Lastrapes: “I just think if we start going right from the beginning, it seems like we get on a roll. Sometimes when we start slow, it’s like, ‘Oh well.’”

The Cats are 70-8 all-time in regional play. They went 3-0 in the double-elimination regional last season, opening with a 9-0 five-inning victory over another Ivy League opponent, Cornell.

Harvard has a West Coast flavor, with 12 Californians on the roster, including junior pitcher Rachel Brown. She is 21-6 with 291 strikeouts in 177 innings, and a 1.90 ERA.

Candrea is expected to use sophomore ace Kenzie Fowler (23-7, 1.75 ERA) in what could be a tone-setting game for a team that lost eight of its final 12 games in the regular seasons.

“I think every team is going to through some tough times,” Candrea said.

“For some teams, that’s really the turning point that gives them the drive to say, ‘You know what, I’m tired of getting beat and tired of playing the game this way, and I’m going to change.’ And there are other teams that sometimes don’t learn from it and continue to spiral down.

“I’m hoping that this team has found some new energy.”

–Texas Tech will feature a couple of familiar names and aces. Former Arizona shortstop Kristie Fox, part of the 2006 and 2007 national championship teams and an ex-student assistant for the Cats, is an assistant coach with the Red Raiders. And second baseman Logan Hall, from Sahuaro High and Pima Community College, is one of Tech’s top hitters, batting .383 with six home runs and 10 stolen bases in 54 games.


Game 1, 4 p.m. — Texas Tech vs. New Mexico State
Game 2, 6:30 p.m. — Arizona vs. Harvard

Game 3, 2 p.m. — Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Game 4, 4:30 p.m. — Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
Game 5, 7 p.m. — Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4

Game 6, noon — Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5
Game 7, 2 p.m. — Repeat Game 6, if necessary

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