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No. 3 softball ties last season's conference loss total

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior third baseman Jackie Coburn injured her hamstring in Arizona's 9-1 loss to UCLA Saturday. Coburn is expected to return to the starting lineup Friday against ASU.
By Tom Knauer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
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Nine games into the Pacific 10 Conference schedule, the No. 3 Arizona softball team is already looking at a pair of fours - and none from the back of Alicia Hollowell's uniform.

After dropping both of its games against No. 10 UCLA in Los Angeles last weekend, the Wildcats (31-6, 5-4) already have more conference losses, four, than last season in their second consecutive Pac-10 Championship season (17-3).

Arizona also sits in fourth place in the conference, 2 1/2 games behind No. 9 Oregon State (29-8, 8-2), 1 1/2 games behind No. 7 Stanford (31-7, 6-2) and a game behind No. 2 California (39-6, 6-3).

The Bruins, who won their second national championship in a row last season, went 12-8 in conference play in 2004 and are 4-4 this season.

"Our margin for errors is very slim," said Arizona assistant coach Larry Ray. "When the group comes out and play with a lot of emotion, as it did Sunday, we're a pretty good team."

Arizona plays two games against unranked ASU (26-16, 1-9) at home this weekend.

Ailing Coburn expects to return against Sun Devils

Senior third baseman Jackie Coburn hobbled to the dugout with a pulled hamstring in the first inning of the Wildcats' loss to UCLA Saturday.

Senior Jen Martinez took her place in the starting lineup Sunday, as senior Candace Abrams made a rare start as the designated hitter.

Coburn is batting .236 in 36 games and second on the team with seven home runs and 29 RBIs.

Ray said he expects Coburn to start Friday against ASU.

"We're hoping she gets back to being healthy because we sure could use her in the lineup," Ray said.

'Nothing wrong' mentally with ace Hollowell

Even a fireballer like Hollowell tends to flicker over a long season.

After striking out 10 or more batters in 15 of 16 non-conference starts, including a season-high 18 punchouts March 13 against North Carolina State, the junior pitcher has completed the feat only three times in eight Pac-10 games.

Hollowell, who has thrown a school season-record seven no-hitters this year, allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings against the Bruins Sunday.

Her 5-2 walk-to-strikeout ratio marked only the second time in 127 career appearances that Hollowell has walked more batters than she struck out.

Ray said a seven-game stretch that ended April 10 against Oregon, in which Hollowell made every start, wore on the ace, but that he expects her to come back strong in the second half of the Pac-10 season.

"Just like other players, Alicia goes through stretches where (she's) not on top of things," he said.

Hollowell is 21-5 this season after going 40-5 and 41-4 in 2004 and 2003, respectively.

Wildcats floundering with runners on base

If fans, players and coaches hope to point the blame somewhere for Arizona's offensive struggles, they shouldn't look toward whoever's on base.

The Wildcats average 5.06 runs per game, fifth in the Pac-10, and strand nearly a runner per inning.

The team has left more runners on base than its opponent in all but nine contests in 2005, including seven of nine in Pac-10 play.

Arizona has a conference-best .308 team batting average.

Ray said the team tends to play too much small ball when the bases get loaded, as happened in the second inning with no one out Saturday against UCLA starter Anjelica Selden. The Bruins won 9-1 in six innings.

"We would like to have someone who is capable of driving some people in," Ray said.

The Wildcats stranded a season-high 16 runners in their 4-0 win over No. 6 Oklahoma March 19.

Beavers lose first games in nearly two months

Lost amid so many long balls in Arizona's two-game series against UCLA was the Wildcats' chance to gain ground on the conference-leading Beavers, whose team-record 22-game winning streak fell at home Friday to the Cardinal.

Stanford's Michelle Smith hit the deciding two-run home run in the first inning of a 3-0 victory, helping give Oregon State its first loss since a 1-0 defeat to No. 11 Tennessee Feb. 25.

The Beavers came back Saturday to win 6-5 over Cal, but lost 2-1 to the Golden Bears Monday in a game rescheduled because of rain.

Ray said Oregon State's recent misfortune could bode well for the teams seeking a high spot in the conference standings.

"I think things are going to start tightening up even more," Ray said.

The Wildcats meet Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., April 30-May 1.

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