Mike Candrea and his staff lugged a hulking cardboard box into Wednesday's breakfast-time practice at Hillenbrand Stadium.

When they unpacked the payload, players got a glimpse of this postseason's carefully chosen team theme.

The front of their new T-shirts say: "We Will."

On the back, in big print, is written: "0-0."

"Everyone's 0-0," Candrea said.

Telling an Arizona Wildcats team to ignore the season record is a tack the coach has used before, but never before has it been more meaningful. At 32-24, the UA posted, statistically, the worst season in Candrea's tenure.

Before the UA can worry about College Station regional host Texas A&M or its potential super-regional opponent, No. 1 Oklahoma, it needs to go 1-0.

To stop Friday's foe, 39-15 Baylor, the Wildcats know they need to be at their best.

Here are three ways they can start:

Lefties hitting lefties

Bears starter Whitney Canion is dominant - she's 23-7 with a 1.62 ERA this season - and left-handed.

The latter point isn't lost on the UA, which features five left-handers in their lineup.

"Lefties can present a problem," Candrea said.

The last time the UA faced a lefty starter, Oregon's Cheridan Hawkins, she no-hit them in a five-inning win April 13.

Facing a lefty is rare in the sport. Most UA starters have seen a southpaw in about 14 percent of their at-bats this year.

Four of the Wildcats' left-handed starters are worse for it.

Alex Lavine hits .328 against righties and .077 against lefties, and Mandie Perez's .308 average against righties dwarfs her .125 mark versus lefties.

The outlier is catcher Chelsea Goodacre, who hits .375 against lefties. She said the challenge is as much about pitches as finding a release point.

Right-handers don't throw curveballs to left-handed hitters, but southpaws do.

"We're just not used to seeing a curveball," she said.

Perez said the pitch "looks like it's coming right at you, and it just goes the opposite way."

The UA doesn't have a left-handed pitcher, or coach, so the team's preparation will have to come through film, not practice.

Canion dominates by balancing her rise-ball with a devastating changeup.

"She's a little different pitcher than the kid at Oregon," Candrea said. "At this stage in the game, you've played 56 games.

"The plate's 17 inches. And the ball has to go over the 17 inches."

Stopping the swipe

The Bears run. A lot.

Baylor has stolen 100 bases in 117 attempts. Its steals total almost triples the UA's 35 and ranks in the top 20 nationally.

Softball is different from baseball in that, because runners can't lead off the bag, there's little a pitcher can do to manage stolen bases - except, maybe, being smart in pitch selection.

"If we know the runner's got a 60 percent chance they're going to go, we're probably not going to throw a changeup," Goodacre said.

The UA infield will likely shift with a runner on first, with shortstop Brigette Del Ponte inching closer to second and third baseman Lauren Young taking a step toward second to close the gap.

"You can't steal first," Candrea said. "That's the big thing: keeping their speed off the bases.

"Being able to throw runners out when they try to attempt - that will solve the problem sometimes."

Goodacre, who has caught 10 of 31 base stealers this season, hopes so.

"Let 'em run once and get 'em," she said. "And they won't run anymore.

"That's what I plan on doing."

Pitch well

There's a reason they draw a circle around the pitching rubber: It's the most important part of the sport.

The Wildcats flew to College Station on Wednesday with Shelby Babcock in tow, hours after the junior threw a bullpen session in practice.

"She looks healthy again," Candrea said.

No one expects the UA's pitching - be it Babcock, freshman Nancy Bowling or junior Estela Piñon - to dominate the tournament. The Wildcats have already set their all-time program worst with a 3.80 ERA.

But if the Wildcats can limit self-induced damage - their 201 walks allowed is second-most in their history, and their 53 errors is second-most since 1999 - they figure to have a chance.

Having Babcock - and her team-leading 169 1/3 innings pitched - back will help, too.

"I know she's going to go out there and give it her all," Goodacre said.

2 Cats named to All-Pac-12 team

UA catcher Chelsea Goodacre and left fielder Hallie Wilson were named to the Pac-12's 20-person all-conference first team, the league announced Wednesday.

Two Wildcats also made the all-freshman squad: designated player Mandie Perez and third baseman Lauren Young.

Canyon del Oro High School grad Kayla Bonstrom, who hit .414 with eight homers and 11 doubles for Stanford, was named the league's Freshman of the Year.

Arizona State's Amber Freeman was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, and Oregon's Jessica Moore earned the league's best pitcher award.

The Ducks' Mike White was named Coach of the Year.

Up next

• Who: Arizona (32-24) vs. Baylor (39-15), NCAA tournament

• When: 12:30 p.m. Friday

• Where: College Station, Texas


Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4658. On Twitter @PatrickFinley Patrick Finley