Softball preseason No. 9: Arizona

January, 26, 2009

The softball preseason top 20 moves on Monday to No. 9, which also serves as both the countdown on days remaining without softball and the number of national championships the team below would like to hold when all is said and done this season.

9. Arizona

Last season: 41-19 (lost to Alabama in the Women's College World Series)

Preseason talking point: From the list of be careful what you wish for:

• Quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys
• Anchor on a network evening newscast
• Free-agent signee by the New York Yankees
• Manager of England's national soccer team
• Host of the Academy Awards
• Ace pitcher for the University of Arizona

Welcome to the club, Lindsey Sisk. Given the cyclical nature of college, the Arizona sophomore and presumptive ace for Mike Candrea's team isn't the first to confront the challenge of taking over in Tucson. But Sisk will be just the second Arizona pitcher in the past decade to take over without having previously thrown 100 innings in a season.

Lindsey SiskLuke Adams/Arizona Athletics Lindsey Sisk will be put to the test on the mound for Arizona this season.

Granted, it worked out well the first time, with freshman Alicia Hollowell guiding Arizona to the 2003 Women's College World Series and to within a game of playing for the national championship. But therein lurks another potential pitfall for Sisk. Hollowell was one of the nation's top recruits in 2003, having been named Gatorade's High School National Player of the Year the previous season. And looking at recent history, the World Series has typically been the domain of either occasional freshman standouts or experienced veterans. It has rarely been home to sophomores with something to prove.

Of the 22 No. 1 pitchers in the past three WCWS with some college experience, not one had thrown fewer than 100 innings the season before.

Arizona -- Taryne Mowatt (Previous season: 363 IP)
Arizona State -- Katie Burkhart (Previous season: 323 IP)
Florida -- Stacey Nelson (Previous season: 318 IP) Virginia Tech -- Angela Tincher (Previous season: 311.2 IP)
Texas A&M -- Megan Gibson (Previous season: 155 IP)
UCLA -- Anjelica Selden (Previous season: 171 IP)
Alabama -- Kelsi Dunne (Freshman)
Louisiana-Lafayette -- Ashley Brignac (Freshman)

Tennessee -- Monica Abbott (Previous season: 345.2 IP)
Arizona State -- Katie Burkhart (Previous season: 268.2 IP)
Northwestern -- Eileen Canney (Previous season: 262.2 IP)
Washington -- Danielle Lawrie (Previous season: 257.2 IP)
Baylor -- Lisa Ferguson (Previous season: 221.1 IP)
Arizona -- Taryne Mowatt (Previous season: 163.2 IP)
Texas A&M -- Amanda Scarborough (Previous season: 158.2 IP)
DePaul -- Tracie Adix (Previous season: 131.1 IP)

Tennessee -- Monica Abbott (previous season: 392 IP)
UCLA -- Anjelica Selden (Previous season: 325 IP)
Oregon State -- Brianne McGowan (Previous season: 299.2 IP)
Arizona -- Alicia Hollowell (Previous season: 279 IP)
Texas -- Cat Osterman (previous season: 272.2 IP)
Alabama -- Stephanie VanBrakle (Previous season: 260.1 IP)
Northwestern -- Eileen Canney (Previous season: 196.1 IP)
Arizona State -- Katie Burkhart (Previous season: 184.1 IP)

Excluding Dunne and Brignac last season, pitchers compiled an average of more than 250 innings in the season before leading their teams to the World Series.

Sisk threw 86.2 innings for Arizona last season, including just 10 innings in Pac-10 play.

To be sure, none of the history will directly impact a single pitch Sisk throws this season (nor will the future, with super phenom Kenzie Fowler waiting in the wings for 2010). Sisk had her own plaudits coming out of high school, and perhaps if she had gone to a program that didn't already have Mowatt, she might have made the same kind of run Brignac and Dunne made as freshmen. We just don't know.

What we do know is that in replacing the latest in the line of championship pitchers in Tucson (not to mention working with a new pitching coach in Teresa Wilson and Candrea after his Olympic sabbatical), Sisk has a big challenge ahead of her.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.



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