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Cats hit Bay area to face Cal, Stanford

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA sophomore pitcher Alicia Hollowell delivers a pitch during a game against Stanford earlier this season at the Hillenbrand Invitational. The Wildcats will head to the Bay area this weekend to face Stanford.
By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, April 16, 2004
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The Arizona softball team could face its toughest test of the season when it travels to the Bay area to face the Pac-10's top schools - but the Wildcats will be armed with a star who shunned Stanford for academic reasons.

No. 1 Arizona (40-1, 4-0 Pacific 10 Conference) travels to the Farm to face the No. 10 Cardinal (32-10, 3-2) today before crossing the San Francisco Bay to play California (36-6, 3-3) tomorrow and Sunday.

The trip to northern California is a homecoming for UA sophomore pitcher Alicia Hollowell (27-0), who was thought to be a lock to don Cardinal and black when she was at Fairfield High School in Suisun, Calif.

"I think being from that part of the country and offering the things that Stanford has to offer, they kind of felt that she was leaning their way, but I'm just glad she saw it a different way and decided to become a Wildcat," UA acting head coach Larry Ray said.

For Hollowell, who said her top four choices were UCLA, Stanford, Cal and Arizona, the fact that Stanford didn't have a business school made her choice easier. SU is the only team to beat her in Pac-10 play: 4-3 in Tucson last year.

"Stanford didn't have my major and I liked the coaches and everything here better," Hollowell said.

Boasting a 0.80 ERA this year, Hollowell didn't grow up a fan of either Bay area school.

"I didn't really pay attention to collegiate sports until my junior year of high school when I started getting recruited," she said.

Hollowell is expected to get the start in the first two games, with senior Wendy Allen (8-0) going on Sunday. Allen (1.37 ERA) beat Cal 1-0 last year in Berkeley, but the Wildcats' lone loss this season came in an Allen start.

Stanford opened up the Pac-10 season by taking two of three from the Oregon schools, falling to the Ducks and, after opening the Big Game series last weekend with a win on the road, dropped a pair at home.

Cal, on the other hand, lost two of three on the Oregon trail, falling to No. 14 Oregon and splitting with the No. 15 Beavers before rebounding on the Farm.

"I think it will be a good trip for us. We're playing two good teams; it will be a challenge for us," Hollowell said.

While the Wildcats played the Cardinal earlier in the year, winning 2-1 in the Worth Wildcat Invitational and 7-5 in its title game, this weekend will be the Wildcats' first game against the Golden Bears this year.

In the semifinals of last year's World Series, Cal shocked top-seeded Arizona two games in a row: 2-1 in 12 innings and then 4-1 to knock the UA out.

When the Bears won the 2002 national title, they ruined Jennie Finch's final game, roughing her up in a 6-0 win in the title game.

"They beat us in the postseason. We've kind of taken care of the regular season, but they've done it when it counted," Ray said. "I'm sure that will be something in their favor. But it is also something that we are very aware of, and we're going to try to make sure to change that."

The Bears are led by sophomore pitcher Kristina Thorson (16-1, 0.92 ERA), who is second in the Pac-10 in saves and fourth in ERA, and junior Kelly Anderson, who is tied for second in the conference in wins and seventh in ERA (1.23).

"They're not real outstanding. There's nothing that makes you sit back and say "wow," like with Alicia. But they win," Ray said. "Anderson is mostly a down pitcher with some off speed. She keeps hitters off balance and hits her spots. She's always throwing well in big games, and I know that we're one of her big games."

Ray said Cal senior pitcher Dana Sorensen (19-5, 1.07 ERA), the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week a couple weeks ago, is "very good." Hollowell has earned Pitcher of the Week honors four times this year, and Cardinal senior Jessica Allister, who went 7-for-9 (.778) with five doubles against her rival, is the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week.

"(Sorensen is) an outstanding pitcher ... so we're going to have to on our game Friday night," Ray said.

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