UA SOFTBALL

Arizona softball: Final road trips could make or break Cats

2013-04-09T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:32:19Z Arizona softball: Final road trips could make or break CatsPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When the Arizona Wildcats travel long distances, Mandie Perez opens up her playbook and goes over the signs her third-base coach, Mike Candrea, signals to players at bat - whether it's a bunt, take, swing-away sign or other more subtle instructions.

"I'm weird," she said. "I don't want to forget them."

The freshman left fielder will have plenty of time to study up this week.

Monday night, the No. 22 Arizona Wildcats (26-13, 4-5) took a five-hour bus ride to Las Cruces, N.M., where they will play a doubleheader at New Mexico State (26-13, 8-1) starting at 4 today.

The Wildcats will return late tonight, practice Wednesday and spend half their Thursday flying to Eugene, Ore., for a weekend series at the Ducks.

On a three-game win streak, the UA will have to win on the road to better their No. 26 RPI. The Wildcats play 11 of their final 17 regular-season games on the road.

"To be good," Candrea said, "you have to be able to play well on the road."

He's not quite sure how his team will react.

The Wildcats have played road tournaments this year, but only one true road series. The last weekend in March, they took two of three at Utah.

"You don't know 'til you go through it," Candrea said. "I think sometimes the less you talk about it, the more you get after it and do it, the better off you are."

Some of the challenges of the road have little to do with the game itself, Candrea said.

"The amount of time you have in a hotel, the downtime," he said. "At least when you're at home, you can keep the schedule you usually have.

"There, you're kinda captured."

The comforts of home netted the Wildcats two five-inning, mercy rule wins against UC-Santa Barbara last weekend.

The UA, which won the last game of the Cal series Wednesday, outscored the Gauchos 21-2 in two wins. They had 25 hits to their opponents' nine.

"I hope this is the beginning of a new chapter, and that we can turn this season around completely," first baseman Hallie Wilson said. "I think we're still in the running. I don't care what the NCAA rankings say."

Asked whether the team's youth made road trips difficult - Arizona counts five underclassmen among its regular starting lineup, plus two newcomers in the circle - Wilson posited the opposite theory.

"Because our team is so young, our team isn't all that used to Hillenbrand anyway," she said. "I think we're the same team on the road as at home."

When Perez is done triple-checking her playbook, she plans on watching Netflix.

Monday, she said she wasn't sure what she'd watch this week.

But with about 20 hours of travel this week, she'll have plenty of time to catch up.

"I haven't been on the road a lot with the team," she said. "I'm kinda excited."

Road warriors

The Arizona Wildcats will play 11 of their last 17 regular-season games on the road. Here's a look at their schedule:

• Today: doubleheader at New Mexico State

• Friday-Sunday: at Oregon

• April 18-20: UCLA

• April 26-28: at Oregon State

• May 3-5: Arizona State

• May 9-11: at Stanford

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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