Monday, June 04, 2007

Bear Down

The University of Arizona, with its probably least-talented and thinnest roster since I enrolled in the fall of 1993, has advanced to the final series of the Women's College World Series. Beginning today they face the University of Tennessee and arguably the best pitcher in collegiate softball history. Monica Abbott is the NCAA career leader in wins, strikeouts and shutouts. YIKES!

But this team didn't enter the tournment as the No. 1 overall seed by accident entirely (though it was a bit of a surprise). They have the BEST coach of any college sport in the country in Mike Candrea. Seven championships in 15 years in what is an increasingly nationally competitive sport and in the most competitive conference in almost any college sport. At any point during the season, about half of the Pac 10 (which doesn't even have 10 softball teams) is ranked in the Top 12. And here's a great quote that shows the team members' hearts:

This anecdote from the Arizona Daily Star explains everything:
Nothing exemplified the Wildcats' must-win approach Sunday better than the third inning of the first game.

Washington's Ashley Charters was caught stealing at second. When she slid into UA shortstop Kristie Fox, her cleat caught in Fox's stirrup — and Fox appeared to push her to the ground.

"I apologized. I wasn't going after her to hurt her," Fox said.

But Fox knew what was coming. When she ran into the dugout at the end of the half-inning, Fox told teammates Caitlin Lowe and Chelsie Mesa that they needed to get on base — "because I'm about to wear it," she said.

Fox was hit in the knee by the first pitch from Danielle Lawrie. Fox didn't retaliate, but ran to first.

It was similar to Saturday night's game, when Lowe collided with DePaul pitcher Tracie Adix at home plate. Adix barked at Lowe for the rough treatment.

"I personally never would mess with Kristie Fox," Mowatt said. "On this team, if you mess with one person, you pretty much have all of us there to back it up.

Given their heart, I just cannot pick against them even though they're facing a pitching juggernaut.

Go Cats! Don't know that I've ever been prouder to be a Wildcat sports fan.

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