Arizona senior third baseman Katiyana Mauga hit four home runs in five games in the Wildcats’ season-opening tournament, so at this pace …
Yeah, at this pace.
That’s a phrase you will hear plenty about Mauga, whose four trots around the bases at the Hillenbrand Invitational last week brought her closer to school, Pac-12 and national records for career home runs.
Mauga, the only player in NCAA history with 20-plus home runs in each of her first three seasons, is up to 71 career homers. The countdown is on.
“It’s there. It’s like I can’t hide it. I can’t put it away,” she told David Kelly of TucsonNewsNow.com, talking about the chase for the home run records. “I mean, I’m just going in there and not really thinking about the records.”
She is 16 behind the school record of 87 held by Stacie Chambers, 19 away from the conference record of 90 held by UCLA’s Stacey Nuveman and 24 shy of the NCAA record of 95 set by Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain.
So, at this pace …
Mauga, a strong and compact 5-foot-2, has hit her 71 home runs in 184 career games. Arizona has 50 regular-season games remaining, plus let’s conservatively give the Wildcats two postseason games (possibly many more, including in the Women’s College World Series, which is Mauga’s stated No. 1 goal).
For now, assuming 52 more games, if she continues to hit home runs at her career rate, she will end with 91 homers.
“It’s definitely motivation,” she said of the chase after hitting a home run in the season-opening victory over Fordham.
“It’s a small distraction, but I try to go on the field and not think about it because I’m thinking about my team and my at-bat right then and there. I’m not thinking ahead. Just clearing my head is the best way. If I have that in my head, it’s definitely going to distract me.”
Mauga is a career .345 hitter who should be poised for her best season because coach Mike Candrea has a deeper lineup than he has had in the past few seasons. Not only does Arizona have table-setters (Mandie Perez, Dejah Mulipola, Alyssa Palomino) ahead of Mauga in the clean-up spot, but Mo Mercado, Tamara Statman and others are solid hitters behind her.
Opponents might still want to pitch around Mauga, but it won’t be such an appealing option when there are runners on base and hot hitters waiting to come up.
“I’m really glad I have back-up in the lineup,” Mauga said before the season.
Her success is no surprise to Candrea.
“I recruited her because she had the knack of being a very good power hitter, but not just only a power hitter, a power hitter who puts up good numbers,” Candrea told TucsonNewsNow.com. “She’s not the .250 hitter who hits a lot of home runs. She’s a .300 hitter who hits a lot of home runs and drives in some runs.”
So far, so good.
“Kati I thought showed a lot of patience, which is a sign of her maturity as a hitter,” Candrea said on Sunday. “Kind of taking what they give her and not forcing things. She swung at good pitches.”
Arizona is back in action Thursday in the Wildcat Invitational against Drake at Hillenbrand Stadium. The tournament runs through Sunday.