It wears on them.

The Arizona Wildcats have won two-thirds of their 15 softball games entering the Wildcat Invitational, which starts today at Hillenbrand Stadium.

But Mike Candrea's team has led at the end of only 39 of the 103 innings it's played this season.

The Wildcats have trailed a whopping 40 percent of the time, and have been tied 22 percent of the time.

"It is draining," Candrea said.

Holding a lead after only 38 percent of their innings leaves the Wildcats feeling underwater, almost all the time.

"At the end of every single game, I'm dead tired," senior shortstop Brigette Del Ponte said. "Because I'm thinking so much."

The UA offense has struggled, by its own standards.

The team has been shut out in its last three losses; the Wildcats were held scoreless just five times all last season.

Last year, in which the Wildcats also won two-thirds of their games, six players hit .310 or better. This season, only three have hit .310 or better, with first baseman Hallie Wilson, who is batting .409, the only one above .326.

"I think it's just believing that we can, and that we're on the same level as them," Wilson said of the UA's opponents. "A lot of our team still is a little shy in that way.

"A lot of the girls are still unaware that wearing this uniform means that you're one of the best.

"We just need to start playing like it."

Against good teams, they haven't.

The Wildcats have yet to lead, at any point, in the three games they've played against ranked teams - Oklahoma, Florida and LSU. They've trailed for all but two total innings, when the game was tied.

"It could be a youth thing," Del Ponte said, "because I think some of them are afraid to make mistakes right now, are afraid to be aggressive and don't know really what's happening or what position you're supposed to be in."

Depending on the lineup, the Wildcats bat either three or four freshmen.

"Freshmen right now are pressing a little bit, as it is, with the score 0-0," Candrea said.

The coach said that, while he didn't want to make excuses, the transfer of star shortstop Shelby Pendley hurt.

"The change in the complexion of our team had a little bit of an affect on that," he said. "In reality, we're relying on a lot more freshmen than I thought we'd be relying on this year, point blank."

In a way, the Wildcats might be fortunate to be 10-5.

"I don't think lucky would be the word," Del Ponte said. "We've worked so hard that we definitely deserve winning and getting those last hits when others don't.

"I wouldn't call it lucky. I would call it, 'Hard work beats it all.'"

The coach warned that this weekend's opponents - UC Riverside, Boston University and Portland State - won't provide walkover wins. PSU is coming off a four-game sweep by No. 3 Arizona State, but the Vikings lost two of those games by one run.

"Anyone we play right now is a challenge for us," Candrea said. "The challenge is, us taking care of the things we can take of.

"We are not, by far, on a picnic this weekend."

The Wildcats are continuing to work hard, he said, and think results will follow.

"I do know that we have a huge gap between where we need to be," he said, "and where we are."

Wildcat Invitational

At Hillenbrand Stadium Today

• 11 a.m.: Portland State vs. UC-Riverside

• 1 p.m.: Portland State vs. Boston University

• 4 p.m.: Arizona vs. UC-Riverside

• 6 p.m.: Arizona vs. Boston University


• 11 a.m.: Boston University vs. UC-Riverside

• 1 p.m.: Portland State vs. UC-Riverside

• 4 p.m.: Arizona vs. Boston University

• 6 p.m.: Arizona vs. Portland State


• 9 a.m.: UC-Riverside vs. Boston University

• 11 a.m.: Arizona vs. Portland State

Down a lot

The Wildcats have played 103 innings this year, and at the end of each have trailed more than they've led. Here's a breakdown:

• Led: 39 innings (38 percent)

• Tied: 23 innings (22 percent)

• Trailed: 41 innings (40 percent)