At the start of 2017, it seemed like it was only a matter of time. After hitting at least 20 home runs in each of her first three seasons at Arizona, Katiyana Mauga needed just that to tie the all-time Arizona home run record.
A sure thing had turned into a big question mark by the end of March as Mauga struggled, but 10 home runs during the month of April has put her all alone atop the Arizona record books.
Mauga slugged home runs number 87 and 88 over the weekend against the Ducks, the latter of which broke Stacie Cambers’ Arizona record. Mauga is also alone in third place in the NCAA record books, just two behind UCLA’s Stacey Nuveman for second all-time.
“It was very special, it was a special moment,” Mauga said when asked about breaking the record. “I was just proud of myself. I wanted to do it for my coach, myself and my parents.”
NCAA record holder Lauren Chamberlain broke Nuveman’s record of 90 during her senior year, but it came late in the season in May and it didn’t always look as if the Oklahoma slugger would be able to pull it off.
The pressure of the chase is something that Chamberlain felt all season. She broke the record with only a few games to go for the Sooners, but when the pressure was finally off, she hit four home runs during the postseason.
“I think the pressure of it along the way and the highs and lows, especially the lows, have made this moment so much sweeter,” Chamberlain told ESPN in 2015. “I think I’m able to celebrate [after breaking the record] and kind of breathe a little bit and just relax and play softball.”
Chamberlain would end her career with 95, a number still in Mauga’s sights.
Mauga felt that same pressure early on this season. Late in March, Mauga was batting just .297 and had 11 home runs. Her numbers were all lower than her averages from her first three seasons and the constant questions about the record caught up to her.
“It definitely took the fun out of the game for me,” Mauga said. “I struggled and it showed so I think that pressure screwed with my head.”
That pressure is gone now after hitting ten home runs this month, and now that she has broken the Arizona record she still has a chance to become the NCAA all-time leader.
“I feel like I’m getting back to who I am as a person and who I am as a player,” Mauga said. “Definitely maturing a lot and after GCU and this last month I feel a lot better about myself. I don’t think the NCAA [record] is as much pressure as the Arizona [record]. I’m just focusing on the team and focusing on what I can do to help the team. Just looking forward for postseason.”
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