Softball running up the score
Another offensive explosion from the Arizona softball team led to a 14-1 victory in five innings over the UTEP Miners on Wednesday.
The win comes on the heels of an 11-1 Arizona win Tuesday night against the Miners.
The two-game series against UTEP was the first time since 2010 that the teams had faced off. The Wildcats won both of the 2010 games by a combined score of 18-0 and showed much of the same dominance this week.
“We’re just putting runs on the board and backing up our pitchers,” redshirt junior shortstop Kellie Fox said. “We’re just sticking together as a team … and staying strong.”
Junior Kelie Fox hit a three-run homer in the first inning during Arizona's softball 14-1 win against UTEP at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on Wednesday. Fox, a UCLA transfer, leads the team with seven home runs in the season.
The Wildcats (15-1) defeated the Miners (6-11) on Tuesday and Wednesday by scoring 25 runs and allowing only two runs in the 10 innings played. Wednesday’s game marked the tenth time this season where Arizona has ended a game after five innings due to the eight-run rule.
Wednesday the Wildcats continued the season-long theme of early offense by scoring 13 of their 14 runs in the first three innings . For the season, 95 of the 132 Arizona runs have come in the first three innings.
UA third baseman/outfielder Katiyana Mauga continued her recent offensive outburst by hitting her second grand slam in as many days. Coming into the UTEP series, Mauga had two home runs and seven runs batted in. In the two games against UTEP, she more than doubled those numbers by hitting two home runs and driving in nine runs.
“My swing is perfect right now; I’m not trying to change anything,” Mauga said. “I’m just waiting for my pitch and getting relaxed.”
That kind of offensive output early in the game provides the team with confidence as the game progresses and takes pressure off of the pitching staff, said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. The Wildcats have scored more than 10 runs in six of their 16 games, which is only three fewer games over 10 runs than the team had in the entire 2013 season.
“This offense is good, and we have a lot more balance throughout our lineup,” Candrea said. “If you look at the bottom of the order right now, they’ve been pretty productive. Anytime you can be productive at the top and bottom, you have a better chance of being successful, because there’s always someone coming up every inning that can make a difference.”
Through the same number of games last year, Arizona was 11-5 and had been shut out three times. This year, the Wildcats are 15-1 and comprise a different team, according to Candrea.
Candrea specifically mentioned better lineup parity as a reason why the team is off to such an improved start this year. Senior utility Alex Lavine is ninth in the batting order and leads the team in batting average, further proof of the considerable lineup parity in this year’s Arizona squad.
Looking forward, the Wildcats take the field on Friday at home against Longwood at 4 p.m. and Valparaiso at 6 p.m. in a double header — their first games of the 2014 Wildcat Invitational.
The Wildcats look to continue their hot start by staying aggressive over their five weekend games.
Arizona will have only a few more weeks to prepare for Pac-12 Conference play, which begins on March 15.
“We just have to come out and keep getting a little better every day,” Candrea said. “All we’re worried about is how we’re playing, and right now we’re playing well. We’re looking forward to another weekend at home.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555