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Cats face familiar foe in opening game of WCWS

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UA Wildcats softball

Cats face familiar foe in opening game of WCWS

First Tennessee/Arizona meeting since Cats won 2007 title

  • The Cats open up play in the Women's College World Series against Tennessee. UA faced the Vols in 2007. Both teams have a five game win streak on the line.
    Ash Friederich/TucsonSentinel.comThe Cats open up play in the Women's College World Series against Tennessee. UA faced the Vols in 2007. Both teams have a five game win streak on the line.

Last Saturday, Arizona’s softball team was in the driver’s seat, picking up their fifth straight win in the NCAA Regional and Super Regional.

The Wildcats (48-11) are making their 22nd trip to Oklahoma City and will open the Women's College World Series against a familiar opponent, Tennessee, Thursday at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.

The Volunteers and Wildcats met in 2007, when Arizona avoided being swept in the championship series in Oklahoma City by overcoming a strong performance by Monica Abbott.

After getting beaten 1-0 in the first game, the Wildcats outscored the Vols 6-0 over the next two, earning a 1-0 victory after ten innings in the second game.

“They’re probably a little better-tested than they were back then,” said Wildcats head coach Mike Candrea about the match-up with Tennessee. “I think, obviously, Monica (Abbott) was a tremendous pitcher and I think a lot of the eggs were put in the basket that she was going to carry the team.

“What I see right now is a very good team that is very well-balanced and has some good ingredients. It’s going to be a very competitive game.”


The Wildcats in 2007 were led by Taryne Mowatt as she pitched Arizona to its eighth National Championship by beating the Vols 5-0. She pitched every game in the NCAA regional, Super Regional and Women’s College World Series.

The Vols and Cats traded wins in the first two games and Abbott, who led the nation in wins and strikeouts, was on top of her game in the first outing.

She had extended her shutout streak to 33 2/3 innings and Alexia Clay gave all of the offense the team needed in that game.

Arizona then did what they do best. Showed versatility and determination.

Over the next two games, the Wildcats found ways to get to Abbott and her team. In the second game, despite scoring only one run, the Wildcats were able to get runners into scoring position against her and ended her 43 consecutive innings of scoreless games.

In the rubber match, the Wildcats scored all the runs they needed in the fifth inning. Chelsie Mesa hit a three-run home run off Abbott after Jenae Leles scored the first two runs on an RBI single.

2008 to now

Both teams struggled to make a deep run into the WCWS in 2008 and 2009. Arizona dropped the first two games in bracket play and returned to Tucson earlier than they wanted to.

This year, the Wildcats are entering the WCWS with a 5-0 record in the NCAA Tournament.

Behind the strong duo of pitchers of freshman Kenzie Fowler (34-6) and senior Sarah Akamine (14-5), Arizona’s chance of making a deep run in Oklahoma City are looking good.

The tenth seeded Cats beat BYU in the Tucson Super Regional, 2-1 and 10-2 to gain their invitation to Oklahoma City.

Arizona’s lineup in the one through nine batters will be difficult to keep under wraps.

Boasting the likes of K’Lee Arredondo, Stacie Chambers, Brigette Del Ponte, Brittany Lastrapes and Lini Koria, the team has the ability to strike at any time.

In the Tucson Super Regional, Arizona jumped on the Cougars’ pitching quickly and pulled away between the third and fourth innings by scoring a combined nine runs in those two innings.

"We made adjustments today. Arizona's hitters are aggressive,” said BYU’s starting pitcher Paige Affleck after facing Arizona in the first game of the Super Regional. “They know what's a strike and what's not, so it was tough to deceive them."

Arizona’s defense will have their hands full with the Vols lineup.

Tennessee, who finished ranked no.15 in the country, has blasted 50 HR’s this year entering the WCWS, two away from tying the school record that they established in 1996.

The Vols also have seniors Tiffany Huff, Erinn Webb and Nicole Kajitani, who were freshman in the 2007 series.

Webb has a .389 average (21-for-54) with seven doubles, two triples, five HR’s and 13 RBIs in four NCAA Tourney appearances over 25 total games.

However, the Wildcats are ready for the matchup with the Vols. With seniors Arredondo, Akamine and Ashley Ralston-Alvarez, the team has the mindset to win.

“Sarah (Akamine) and I know what it’s like to win, we want to win,” Arredondo said. “The sophomores and juniors want to win, the freshmen want to win and everyone wants to come here and do our best to win every game we play. 

“I know everyone has a different mindset because everyone is sick of losing (in the WCWS). We want to come out here and show everyone that even though no one believes we can do it, we can do it as a team. We just want to prove everyone wrong.”

Putting the ball in play

Both teams’ pitchers are looking to stop potent offenses and Fowler’s approach has been to dominate all season long.

She has compiled a 34-6 record.

The Volunteers will counter with Ivy Renfroe, who has won 29 games, 2nd for all-time regular season wins.


Up Next

No. 15 Tennessee (47-13) vs. No. 10 Arizona (48-11), 4 p.m., TV: ESPN2 Probable pitchers: TEN: Ivy Renfroe (29-4), UA: Kenzie Fowler (34-6)

How they got to Oklahoma City


Regional tournament
  • defeated Ball St., 5-0
  • defeated Virginia, 11-2
  • defeated Louisville, 3-1 (9 innings) *Advanced to Super Regional
Ann Arbor, Mich. Super Regional (Tenn. won 2-0 over No. 2 Michigan)
  • defeated Michigan, 5-0
  • defeated Michigan, 4-3


Tucson Regional
  • defeated Cornell, 9-0 (5 innings)
  • defeated Hofstra, 6-0
  • defeated Hofstra, 10-6 (12 innings) *Advanced to Super Regional
Tucson Super Regional (Arizona defeated BYU 2-0)
  • defeated BYU, 2-1
  • defeated BYU, 10-2 (5 innings)

Tennessee Vs. Arizona

The two teams have met a total of 13 times and the Wildcats hold a 9-4 record against the Volunteers.

Last game: 2007 Championship Series, UA won 5-0 to claim school's eighth national championship.

In Oklahoma City, The Vols have a slight advantage at 4-3.

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