Selectors surprise Cats nicely

Instead of sending UA on road, panel picks team as host
2011-05-16T00:00:00Z Selectors surprise Cats nicelyPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 16, 2011 12:00 am  • 

In their minds, their bags were already packed.

The Arizona Wildcats figured they would be shipped off for one of the most challenging journeys in the program's quarter-century of NCAA softball tournament appearances.

Then, late Sunday night, they weren't.

The No. 8-seed Wildcats (40-16) learned they will host the regional and, if they win, a best-of-three super regional at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Texas Tech, New Mexico State and Harvard will travel to Tucson for the double-elimination regional, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday.

The Wildcats play the Crimson on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

If the UA wins the regional, it will host again, perhaps against No. 9 seed Oklahoma.

"It's crazy - I thought we were packing for sure," ace pitcher Kenzie Fowler said. "Whatever we think, it's always the opposite."

The Wildcats had been baffled in years past. In 2008 and 2009, the UA was seeded seventh and ninth, respectively, yet traveled for the regional round.

"Going as far as you can at home in this tournament is going to be an advantage," Fowler said.

The eight-time national champion Wildcats have now reached the NCAA tournament 25 straight seasons. They have advanced to the Women's College World Series, the event's round of eight, in all but two of those years.

Coach Mike Candrea, who watched the televised selection show from his home with about 20 friends and media members, was thrilled with the result.

"I was really kind of saying to myself, 'If we ever really gave the selection committee a chance or a reason to move us somewhere else, this would have been the year,' " he said.

The selection committee placed 30 automatic entries and 34 at-large slots, including seven total Pac-10 teams. After the top 16 teams were seeded, pairings were determined based on geographic proximity.

It made the UA's hosting - and two of the three teams coming to Tucson - that more surprising.

"It's as good as it could be right now," Candrea said. "I know that. I think the staff knows that.

"Whether the kids know that I think is another thing.

"Playing in front of our fans is worth something."

Fowler said she is happy that the UA's four seniors have a chance to leave Hillenbrand Stadium differently than Saturday, when the Wildcats lost to Cal.

The UA, ranked No. 1 earlier this year, might have been disappointed by its own standards, and not those of the committee, Fowler said.

"That's why maybe we were all thinking we were going to be packing," she said. "Because of the expectations we have for ourselves."

Candrea has borrowed Oregon football coach Chip Kelly's "Win the Day" mantra to try to focus his team.

Playing at home, albeit unexpectedly, will give his team an edge.

"I hope they're going to arrive," Candrea said, and "that they're gonna finally say, 'You know what? Enough's enough.'

" 'We've got an opportunity here that we're very lucky to have, and let's take advantage of it.' "

Tucson regional schedule

Double-elimination format, at Hillenbrand Stadium

• Tickets: Available beginning at 9 a.m.. at the McKale Center ticket office (621-CATS) and www.arizonawildcats.com. All-session passes are $27 for seats and $21 for bleachers; single-game tickets are $10 and $8, respectively. Season ticket-holders will receive priority.

Friday

• Game 1: New Mexico State vs. Texas Tech, 4 p.m.

• Game 2: Arizona vs. Harvard, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday

• Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 2 p.m.

• Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 4:30 p.m.

• Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m.

Sunday

• Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, noon

• Game 7: Game 6 rematch, 2 p.m., if necessary

Tournament field

Tucson Regional; Friday-Sunday

• Texas Tech (40-14) vs. New Mexico State (43-15)

• Harvard (36-14) vs. No. 8 Arizona* (40-16)

Tempe Regional; Friday-Sunday

• No. 1 Arizona State* (50-6) vs. North Dakota State (30-25)

• San Diego State (32-19) vs. Long Beach State (37-16)

College Station Regional; Friday-Sunday

• LSU (38-16) vs. Syracuse (44-11)

• Sacred Heart (29-19) vs. No. 16 Texas A&M* (41-13)

Norman Regional; Friday-Sunday

• No. 9 Oklahoma* (37-16) vs. Iona (31-20)

• Missouri State (29-23) vs. Tulsa (43-13)

Columbia Regional; Friday-Sunday

• No. 5 Missouri* (46-7) vs. Illinois State (35-17)

• DePaul (39-13) vs. Indiana (37-16)

Seattle Regional; Thursday-Saturday

• Auburn (39-17) vs. BYU (38-16)

• Portland State (34-16) vs. No. 12 Washington* (34-14)

University Park Regional; Friday-Sunday

• No. 13 Oregon (39-14) vs. Albany (N.Y.) (28-21)

• Fordham (41-17) vs. Penn State* (27-22)

Gainesville Regional; Friday-Sunday

• UCLA (33-17) vs. Jacksonville (43-14)

• Bethune-Cookman (33-24) vs. No. 4 Florida* (47-9)

Tuscaloosa Regional; Friday-Sunday

• Chattanooga (42-12) vs. Memphis (35-12)

• Jackson State (24-19) vs. No. 2 Alabama* (46-8)

Stanford Regional; Friday-Sunday

• No. 15 Stanford* (38-15) vs. Pacific (37-17)

• Fresno State (34-17) vs. Nebraska (39-12)

Ann Arbor Regional; Friday-Sunday

• Notre Dame (45-9) vs. Kentucky (36-14)

• Western Michigan (25-28) vs. No. 10 Michigan* (51-4)

Louisville Regional; Friday-Sunday

• No. 7 California (39-10) vs. Jacksonville State (39-19)

• Illinois-Chicago (25-22) vs. Louisville* (36-18)

Athens Regional; Friday-Sunday

• Florida State (30-26) vs. UAB (38-17)

• Georgia State (36-23) vs. No. 6 Georgia* (47-12)

College Park Regional; Friday-Sunday

• No. 11 Baylor (40-12) vs. Lehigh (33-21)

• East Carolina (39-20) vs. Maryland* (39-17)

Knoxville Regional; Friday-Sunday

• Oklahoma State (37-17) vs. Georgia Tech (44-10)

• Liberty (30-28) vs. No. 14 Tennessee* (47-10)

Austin Regional; Friday-Sunday

• No. 3 Texas* (44-8) vs. Texas State (33-23)

• Houston (40-16) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (49-9)

* Host school

UA's opponents

Harvard Crimson (36-14)

• Location: Cambridge, Mass.

• Conference finish: The Crimson won its fifth league title by beating Cornell on May 8 to claim the Ivy Championship Series.

New Mexico State Aggies (43-15)

• Location: Las Cruces, N.M.

• Conference finish: The Aggies won their first WAC regular-season title and, on Saturday, their first WAC tournament title.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (40-14)

• Location: Lubbock, Texas

• Conference finish: The Red Raiders went 5-13 in Big 12 play, finishing third from the bottom in the conference.

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