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Wildcat ace Hollowell close to striking old records

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior pitcher Alicia Hollowell is well on her way to a record-breaking season with the No. 1 Arizona softball team. Hollowell needs only to record 46 more strikeouts in order to claim the No. 1 spot in the record books, currently held by alumna Jenny Finch with 1,028.
By Tom Knauer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, February 25, 2005
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The Alicia Hollowell Ride to the Record Book stops in Waco, Texas, today for the Compass Bank Invitational. Just don't count on the Arizona ace to join the rest of the No. 1 UA softball team.

At least, not with a stat sheet in tow.

"The thing is, we really don't worry about records and breaking records," said Arizona assistant coach Nancy Evans. "We actually don't worry about that at all. All we worry about is winning games."

Even Hollowell is coy about the most coveted of the four Wildcat career pitching marks she can pass this season.

"Oh, gosh. I don't know," she said. "Probably no-hitters because that's another team thing, and it takes everyone helping out to do that. It's not just a one-man show."

Forgive Hollowell for being modest. It's just that the junior out of Suisun, Calif., has never been one to take her individual accomplishments too seriously.

"There's really not a limit to how hard I'll work," she said. "I just want to make sure the team wins."

That could be difficult for Arizona (9-0) this weekend, even as its opponents in Sam Houston State (4-10), Birmingham-Southern (5-4), Louisiana Tech (7-8) and host team Baylor (17-2) are a combined nine games over .500.

If the wins come easy, most signs should point to Hollowell (5-0, .66 ERA).

With 45 strikeouts, she will break Jennie Finch's mark of 1,028 from 1999-2002. That could happen as early as Sunday if the team wins its first four games of the tournament.

Hollowell averages 14.1 strikeouts per seven innings this season, meaning that she will reach the record with three competitive starts this weekend or against Eastern Michigan at home March 3-4.

Either way, the outcome has rarely been in question.

"When you are a team player, and you focus on the best for the team, then good things will happen to you," Evans said.

Hollowell, who bettered her own school record by one last season with 41 victories, needs 43 wins to surpass Evans' career mark of 124 - a goal the former UA star said is ripe for the picking.

"I'm her No. 1 fan right now. I want her to succeed," Evans said. "I want her to own every record at Arizona, because that's not only a compliment to her but a compliment to me."

In the meantime, Hollowell continues to compliment her teammates on the field.

"It's very fun to play with her," said freshman catcher Callista Balko. "She always keeps you in the game, and she makes sure that she gives you credit for calling pitches. She's a team player."

Hollowell, who formed a battery with Mackenzie Vandergeest most of her first two seasons, said learning to play with Balko has been a pleasing challenge.

"It's been a little bit of a difference because she had to get used to what pitches I like throwing in different situations," Hollowell said. "But she's done a great job of coming on and being a leader."

Leadership by example is a Hollowell forte. After throwing a perfect game against Tennessee-Chattanooga Feb. 13 and notching a 15-strikeout no-hitter Friday against Marshall, she has seven career no-hitters, one behind the record set by Evans and Susie Parra (1991-1994).

The strong performances, Balko said, give the team confidence at crucial moments.

"Sometimes, we do struggle offensively, but she helps us come out on the field and stay strong defensively, so we can pull out a win," Balko said.

The only record Hollowell needs to wait on this season won't seem like much if she breaks it. She needs to register a career-low 286 innings this season to usurp Finch (876 2/3) as Arizona's all-time leader.

Still, as opponents, coaches and former players alike have come to realize, when Alicia Hollowell starts rumbling in your direction, it's best to get out of the way.

"Right now, she's only been here two years, but she's had a huge impact on our program and will continue to do so for the next two years," Evans said. "She'll be one of the great pitchers of Arizona, and I'm more than excited for her."

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