By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The No. 2 UA softball team (49-4, 13-3 in Pac-10) hopes to ride the wave of a six-game winning streak against Pac-10 foes Oregon State and 17th-ranked Washington this weekend at Hillenbrand Stadium.
The Cougars, Arizona's foe tomorrow night, pose the greatest threat to the Wildcats with their 14-game winning streak. The two previous meetings between these two Pac-10 giants resulted in late-inning victories.
"Washington has given us two tough games so far," said UA coach Mike Candrea. "They have a good young pitching staff that has been fairly successful against us so far."
With the two games' scores of 6-2 and 5-0, Washington coach Teresa Wilson feels some more punch in her lineup is needed.
"The two games that we've played with Arizona have gone down to the wire so far," said Wilson. "To beat Arizona, I think that we will need to play exceptional defense and try to generate more runs than we did in the first two meetings."
But in order to boost their offense, the Cougars will have to overcome two of the top pitchers in the league in sophomores Carrie Dolan and Nancy Evans. Dolan is coming off two shutouts against Arizona State and currently sports a 25-1 record with a 1.19 ERA and 12 shutouts. Evans opened some eyes as well with her one-hit shutout against No. 3 Fresno State. For the season, she has a 22-3 mark and a 1.90 ERA.
"We've had a lot of success this season because we have had different people carrying the load," Candrea said. "But lately we've had some quality pitching, espe- mid
cially Carrie Dolan."
On the other side of the plate, the Wildcats have been just as solid. Against Fresno State, Leah O'Brien and Alison Johnsen had three hits apiece, including a three-run triple for Johnsen. In the ASU matchup, Arizona's power surge was the difference. Catcher Leah Braatz hit two of the six Wildcat homers during the four games last weekend.
Included in the barrage was senior Laura Espinoza's two home runs to put her at 28 for the year. She also broke her former NCAA record of 95 RBI last weekend and now sits at 98. So with 12 games remaining in the regular season, Espinoza should go well beyond the century mark in that category.
Now that the Wildcats are in the home stretch, it is tough to avoid looking beyond the season to the postseason.
"It is hard to not look too far ahead of the game at hand Ä I mean, we can't count out Oregon State this weekend," Candrea said. "But it is important that we get on a good roll to lead into the postseason."
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