UA softball using fall play to get back on winning track

Nothing like a little fall ball to shake off the lingering hangover from last year.

The University of Arizona softball team, still smarting from its loss to UCLA in the Women’s College World Series last year (PhxFan article 6.09.10), got its mojo back in gear by coasting through the Arizona Fall Classic with five straight wins.

Sophomore pitching sensation, Kenzier Fowler, was back on the mound putting away batters, and redshirt senior catcher, Stacie Chambers, was back at the plate pounding the fences.

The Wildcats hosted the three-day event at Hillenbrand Stadium and wrapped things up by winning both games Sunday, the first against Cypress College from California in a 10-0 shutout and then working their way past Pima College in the nightcap, 3-1.

Fowler pitched the first game against Cypress and Shelby Babcock, a freshman from Colorado, tossed the second.

Last year, the 5’11” Fowler became only the second freshman in school history to record a 30-win season as she posted an impressive 38-9 mark and pitched the Cats to a 52-14 record and No. 3 national ranking at the close of the regular season.

They entered the Women’s College World Series seeded 10th and eventually came within two games of winning the national title.  UCLA took the final series in two straight games.

Chambers led the hit parade in Sunday’s opener, going 4-for-6 and slamming a home run in the fourth inning that brought home three of the five RBIs she would post for that game.

The local product, out of Cactus High School in Glendale, is a two-time All-American and two-time All Pac-10 First Team selection.  One of the best power-hitting catchers in the college game, she is a tough competitor, starting all 189 games over the last three years after sitting out 2007 with an injury.

While at Cactus High School, she was twice named the Gatorade State Player of the Year, in 2005 and 2006, and holds the Arizona high school record for home runs in a single season with 20.

In the second game Sunday, against Pima, last year’s team leader in slugging percentage (.803) accounted for two of ASU’s three runs on a double to center in the third inning to score Becca Tikey and Karissa Buchanan.

Tikey and Buchanan are a couple more local products that could make big contributions this year.  Tikey is an outfielder from Horizon High School in Scottsdale and Buchanan played the outfield at Sabino High School in Tucson.

Buchanan started 57 games in right field last year as a sophomore and finished second on the team with a .405 batting average.  Tikey got into 35 games last year as a freshman, mostly as a pinch runner, but should see increased playing time as she starts her second year on the squad.

The Wildcats won their first three games against Arizona Western (14-2), New Mexico (11-0), and Central Arizona (4-2).

They will meet Pima again tomorrow night at Hillenbrand as they wrap up their fall schedule.  An alumni game on Friday will finish up the week.