Katiyana Mauga hopes to power UA softball through postseason
Arizona outfielder Katiyana Mauga swings at the ball during a 8-7 loss to UCLA on Monday, April 25. The Wildcats host Oregon State for a three-game series beginning Friday.
Katiyana Mauga was accustomed to playing baseball with the boys growing up in San Diego. Her parents, Matthew and Kanani encouraged her to begin playing softball as she grew up.
“They thought the boys would get bigger and stronger, but I said they wouldn’t,” Mauga said. “I loved baseball, but I switched over to softball [in high school].”
She was a four-year letterman at Mira Mesa High School and preluded her illustrious time at Arizona with quite the high school career. Mauga was first team all-state and conference during her junior and senior seasons, and tied the San Diego District Division II record with 41 home runs during her career.
Mauga can remember having coaches come to watch her play beginning at age 12, and says the recruiting process started right as she entered high school.
Coach Mike Candrea remembers watching Mauga and falling in love with her as a player for the first time.
“One thing that stood out more than anything was her ability to hit for power, but for me more importantly was her ability to be clutch,” Candrea said. “I kept going to watch her, hoping she would still be available, I wanted to see her do it more than once or twice and I did.”
Mauga started to gain attention from recruiters and was talking not only with Arizona, but with Pac-12 Conference foes Washington and Oregon.
“I knew I didn’t want to play in the cold, so that conversation didn’t go too far,” Mauga said.
After a tournament with her club team, Candrea was finally ready to pull the trigger.
“I remember being in Colorado [for a club tournament] one weekend and they couldn’t get her out when they were trying to,” Candrea said. “She had a hell of a weekend and that’s when I said I have to have this kid.”
Mauga selected the UA for the “tradition, weather, coach and being close to home.”
She has been one of the most exciting athletes on the UA campus since she arrived in 2014 for her freshman season. Mauga batted .363 and belted 20 home runs during her first year, earning the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award.
She didn’t skip a beat from high school to elite Division I softball and attributes her success to hard work.
“Coming here, I knew I had to work hard,” Mauga said. “I was a rookie; nothing was given and the expectations that coach had for me—I just had to live up to those expectations.”
Mauga improved during her sophomore season, building on her early success.
After hitting 26 home runs and driving in a remarkable 76 runs in her sophomore season, Mauga made it clear she was one of the most feared righties in the nation. Coming into this season, she has had a target on her back and teams have adjusted accordingly.
Mauga has walked at a higher rate this year than the previous two, and most teams have decided throwing to Mauga is not worth the risk.
“Coach told me at the beginning of the season that there would be a bulls-eye on my back,” Mauga said. “I have to take what I can take and do what is best for our team. If it’s a walk, it’s a walk; if they pitch to me, I have to take advantage.”
Mauga is hoping to carry the Wildcats back to Oklahoma City, a place the historic program has not been for five years.
The Wildcats have struggled to find a balanced team over the last few seasons, and either the bats or the rotation have let the team down each of the previous five seasons.
With the Wildcats’ current pitching staff and a player like Mauga, who will have her name etched all over the Arizona record books, the Wildcats should be in contention the next two seasons.
Mauga is focused on the rest of the season and believes her team is still right in it.
“We need to focus on doing the little things, and not focusing on if the big things happen,” Mauga said. “If the big plays come, the big plays come.”
If Arizona raises the trophy in the next two years, Mauga can expect to see her picture on the outfield wall at Hillenbrand Stadium forever.
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