Softball Notes: Candrea moves to 800 games over .500

By Tom Knauer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 24, 2005

Persistent rain canceled games in each of the last two tournaments for the No. 1 Arizona softball team, likely to the chagrin of head coach Mike Candrea. It also helped lift the longtime skipper to a rare milestone, and inched him closer to two others.

With the Wildcats' 2-1, eight-inning win over Hawaii in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader, Candrea has a career record of 991-191, making the 20-year UA veteran the first softball coach in Division I history to move 800 games over .500.

His winning percentage of .838 is second of all time to UCLA's Sue Enquist (805-148, .845), whose third-ranked Bruins have also suffered through inclement weather in recent weeks. UCLA (8-2) has played only four games since falling to Cal State-Fullerton on Feb. 5, including a 2-1 loss to Syracuse on Feb. 13.

The break has allowed Candrea to squeeze closer to Enquist's mark, as he moves toward 1,000 career victories.

"We've been blessed with some outstanding young ladies in this program. No. 1, he's been with them a long time to get that many wins," Arizona assistant coach Larry Ray said of Candrea. "I think it says a tremendous amount. The schedule that we play, to get that many wins is quite an accomplishment."

The Wildcats (9-0) visit Los Angeles for a two-game series with the Bruins April 16-17.

Hit parade keeps rolling for Fox, Lowe

Don't look now, Dickie V, but the Wildcats' two super sophomores are showing some simply amazing talent.

Following solid performances at the Worth Wildcat Invitational at Hillenbrand Stadium last weekend, shortstop Kristie Fox and center fielder Caitlin Lowe rank one-two in team batting average, hits, runs and stolen bases.

Lowe went 6-11 with three runs and a stolen base and drove in two runs in Arizona's 7-0 win Friday over Marshall. The 2004 first-team All-American is batting .469 with 15 hits, eight runs and eight steals in nine games.

"Caitlin gets things going, being the leadoff hitter," Ray said. "When she gets on, and we're able to move her along, she's able to steal bases and get into scoring position for the 3-4-5 hitters. It makes it easier on them."

Fox, who flied out to drive in the winning run in the second game of a doubleheader against Hawaii, batted 2-9 on the weekend, dropping her average to .549. She hit a first-inning home run against the Thundering Herd, her fourth homer in as many games.

That streak ended Sunday in game one with the Rainbow Wahine, as Fox went hitless for the second time this season.

The second-year starter, who leads the team in home runs (four), RBIs (15) and runs (12) and is second in hits (13) and tied for second in stolen bases (four), has lifted an offense that averages five runs per game, four fewer than at this point last season.

"Kristie's been swinging a good bat," Ray said. "She's very aggressive and been swinging at good pitches, and good things have happened. Being a sophomore, I don't think really matters that much at this level."

Ray said Fox and Lowe have set a good example for the rest of the team, if nothing else.

"We expect them to be leaders, as we do with really all of our players, regardless of what year in school they are," he said.

Schultz shrugs off slump in UA sweep

Senior second baseman Shelley Schultz broke a season-long slump in Arizona's two-game sweep over Hawaii.

Schultz, who led the team in fall exhibition play with a .769 batting average, 11 RBIs and a 2.555 on-base plus slugging percentage in three games, went 3-6 with a run.

Prior to Sunday, Schultz had one hit in 20 at-bats this season.

"I think the key with her is just getting a little bit more aggressive," Ray said. "The times that she has been not successful is when she's been tentative. She's an outstanding hitter and just needs to go up there with a lot of confidence.

"I know that's sometimes easier said than done, but when she swings the bat with confidence, she's excellent," he said.