Softball team to face No. 1 UCLA
After a tough weekend in the Bay Area, the UA softball team will try to use its homefield advantage against the other two top teams in the Pacific 10 Conference this weekend.
The No. 1-ranked UCLA Bruins (51-4 overall, 18-4 Pacific 10 Conference) and No. 5 Washington (39-14, 12-9) will set out to overtake the No. 3 Wildcats (42-12, 14-8) at Hillenbrand Stadium for the teams' last meetings of the regular season.
"This weekend coming up is going to be a huge weekend for us," UA head coach Mike Candrea said. "If they (UA softball players) can't get up for UCLA and Washington it says something that's not very positive."
In the Wildcats' last meeting with the two teams on their home fields, UA was swept by the Bruins 6-2, 3-2 and split games with Washington, losing 3-2 and winning 2-1.
"I'm confident," UA sophomore center fielder Nicole Giordano said. "I know what it takes for us to do well. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure everyone else knows that."
Once her team gets past the Bruins Saturday, Giordano will greet a friendly face as her older sister Jeanine will catch for the Huskies.
"I'm excited," she said. "My sister plays for Washington, so it'll be great to play against her."
Arizona's Giordano is tearing up the basepaths, having only been thrown out trying to steal four times in her career. She's sitting at 20 for 24 in stolen bases this season.
"I'm just going to worry about me and how I do," she said. "I think if everyone does that we'll be able to beat UCLA, heck, we'll be able to sweep the whole weekend."
But it won't be an easy sweep, as the Wildcats will have to be on their toes, especially against the Bruin power hitters.
"They have some big hitters," sophomore pitcher Becky Lemke said after the road series at UCLA. "But now we know what they have."
Lemke is 23-6 going into this weekend, with freshman pitcher Jennie Finch 19-6. Both have been named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week this season, March 2 and April 3, respectively.
Bruin sophomore Stacey Nuveman was a key hitter for the UCLA offense in the last meeting, with a two-out, two RBI single that sealed the Bruins' first win and a clinching hit in the second game with a solo home run that broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fifth.
"UCLA's a very good ballclub; they're very talented," Candrea said. "They're very driven to do well because of their probation and a lot of those girls redshirted, found out what it's like not to be played, and it gives a whole new meaning to them for the game."
UCLA was on probation for the 1998 season due to recruiting violations dating back to the 1995 team, which was forced to forfeit its national title.
"They've been on a roll but I think we're very capable of doing well against them," Candrea said. "We've got enough talent to do it, we just have to have the drive."
UCLA is actually coming off two losses to the Oregon schools last weekend. As are the Wildcats, who split games at California (36-19, 7-14) and Stanford (38-19, 8-14), with victories in both first games 1-0 and 3-1 and losses in the second games 5-1 and 1-0, respectively.
"We made many little errors," sophomore first baseman Erika Hanson said. "But now it's time for us to all be on the same page, and leave our mistakes behind to start taking it one day and game at a time."
Batters are up at 6 both evenings.
Kate Longworth can be reached at Kate.Longworth@wildcat.arizona.edu.