UA Wildcats softball
Preview: BYU softball visits Arizona in NCAA Super Regional
Cougars face No. 10 Wildcats in first-ever trip to Super Regional
Brigham Young University will play in the softball program's first-ever NCAA Super Regional starting on Friday against No. 10 Arizona.
When asked at what point in the current season that his Brigham Young Cougars team turned the corner, head coach Gordon Eakin pointed to the 2009 season in the Ohio State Regional.
“That moment was last year in the Ohio State Regional,” Eakin said during the team’s press conference on Thursday. “We gave a up a four run lead in the sixth inning in the elimination game and then lost in extra innings, 5-4. We talked about it about ten minutes after we got eliminated and we decided that we weren’t going to allow that to happen because of our effort.
“If another team beat us, we could live with that and we really had felt like we had given that game away because we were playing not to lose and not to win.”
The Cougars (46-11) have found ways to win, propelling them into the NCAA Super Regional after defeating No. 12 Texas during the regional tournament.
In ten years, BYU has never been to a Super Regional. For their first trip, they ended up with one of the toughest opponents in the country, the tenth-seeded Wildcats.
“It is what it is. This is unchartered waters for us,” Eakin said. “It’s very common and normal place for them, but you still have to play the game. The game is the game. You never know what will happen when you play the game. We’re very well aware of who Arizona is.
“We have a very extensive book on Arizona; the key is to execute the book. We’ll conduct ourselves the way we do every game and try to win by playing to our strengths and not to Arizona.”
The Cougars, who have faced the Wildcats only three times in their ten year history, have never beaten Arizona.
This season, the Cats defeated BYU 8-0 in five innings at the Cathedral Classic Tournament on Feb. 26. Prior to that, BYU dropped a pair to the Wildcats for a two game series at Hillenbrand in 2000.
“We have film from when we played them earlier in the year,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said during UA’s press conference on Wednesday.
“I take that with a grain of salt because I think every team is different now than they were early on in the season. I’m much more worried about how our team plays, and if we play well everything should fall into place.”
The Wildcats (46-11, 13-8) are coming off an emotional win last Sunday when Lini Koria drilled a walk-off grand slam against Hofstra that gave the Wildcats their 20th straight year of making the Women’s College World Series.
During the clinching game, Wildcat pitcher Kenzie Fowler threw 204 pitches before exiting in the 12th inning.
Sarah Akamine (13-5) came in and threw eight pitches before Koria’s home run picked up the win.
“She’s really good and she brings the heat,” said Cougar’s third baseman Angeline Quiocho about facing Fowler again. “She moves the ball and facing her again is going to take a lot of adjustments. I feel like our lineup can do that.”
The Cougars will most likely counter with junior Paige Affleck (32-8), who topped the Cougar record books with 32 wins this season.
Affleck was a major reason the Cougars won the Austin Regional, defeating East Carolina both times they played them.
Putting the ball in play
If pitching doesn’t dominate the three game series, the hitting certainly will.
Both teams pack a lineup that can make things happen and Quiocho is a major contributor to the Cougars’ lineup.
She currently leads the country in runs batted in and is the home runs per game leader.
Her success landed her the honor of being named the 2010 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.
The Wildcats can make things happen in the one through nine batting positions and will certainly keep the pressure on the Cougar pitching staff.
Sweet memories at Hillenbrand
This will be the last weekend at Hillenbrand Stadium for the Wildcat seniors in the lineup.
The winner of the best-of-three series will move onto Oklahoma City for the WCWS.
“It’s sad knowing that this is it no matter what,” said senior shortstop K’Lee Arredondo, who fueled UA’s comeback against Hofstra last Sunday with a two-run triple.
“It’s been fun, I’ve been trying to make this week memorable because it’s possible that this could be my last week of practice here at Hillenbrand, so hopefully we take care of business and make it to the World Series so that that’s not the case.”
Joining Arredondo are senior pitchers Akamine and Ashley Ralston-Alvarez.