When the Arizona Wildcats begin postseason play on Friday, senior third baseman Katiyana Mauga will have an eye on the all-time NCAA home run record, currently sitting six shy of Lauren Chamberlain’s career mark of 95.
But she’ll also have an eye on her teammates’ swings.
“I’ll be hitting one day and I’ll be struggling and she just pulls me aside and says ‘Hey, this is all you need to fix. This is all you really need to do’ and I was like well, thanks!” freshman first baseman Jessie Harper said of her teammate. “She can just pick out all the little things.”
“I’ve kind of always been in that role,” Mauga said about taking time to help her teammates with their swings. “Like coach I love watching swings and I love seeing the difference of people’s swings. So when someone says they’re struggling or they’re trying to figure out what’s going on, I try to help in that aspect and I’m just happy they trust in me and they have open ears to what I have to say.”
Mauga has always been this way, which has led to her thinking about a future in coaching.
“Yes, I’m hoping to maybe see where it leads to me colleges or whoever gives me the opportunity,” she said about being a coach after her playing career ends. “We (Mike Candrea and Mauga) talk about it and he gives me a lot of information about it and says that I would be a good coach so I think that kind of put me more on wanting to be a coach, especially because I love to watch softball and like — I should say love — to play it.”
“I like watching swings, and critiquing, and trying to help them be successful.”
When you look at Arizona’s freshman class, the obvious replacement for Mauga moving forward is Harper. What makes it more interesting is that the freshman is usually standing on deck during the senior’s at bats, giving Harper an up-close look at what she could be in the near future.
“She’s not phased,” Harper said of what she wants to take from Mauga’s game. “She’s straight-faced, she goes out there with a plan, she knows what she wants to do, and she has a goal set in her mind. She’s not afraid of anyone.”
“I take away from her just how relaxed she stays,” redshirt freshman Alyssa Palomino added. “She doesn’t go up their thinking ‘Oh I’m gonna hit a home run’. She just goes up there and she says ‘I’m going to just get a hit and do everything I can for this team’ and you can tell that she’s relaxed and that’s one thing I can take away because sometimes I get in my head. So just watching her stay focused and stay relaxed is something I can take away.”
As you would expect, Mauga also leads the team in walks (38), but that’s because of her ability to select pitches more than anything else since she has such good protection in the lineup.
“She knows she might get thrown a lot of balls, but she just has to wait for that one pitch,” Harper added, who has only walked eight times this year. “I think her being able to be selective is the most of what I have to learn from her for sure.”
Mauga certainly knows that she can leave a legacy at Arizona that’s more than being the program’s all-time home run queen as well, and she also sees a younger version of herself in Harper that she can help groom now.
“Jessie, she’s a young one, and I’m just trying to help her out and get her ready for the next three years coming on even though we’re not done yet,” Mauga said of the freshman slugger. “It’s definitely going to get harder for the next three years especially when pitchers know you already, so I think just trying to get her to understand and help her to not overthink everything and just play her game.”
“She kind of reminds me how I was (as a freshman) swinging-wise,” continued Mauga. “We definitely both always get frustrated, especially if we’re not producing for the team or personally, so I think seeing her kind of grow and take on a big leadership role on this team — especially being a freshman coming in with eight of us seniors — I think she impresses me just by coming in and stepping up.”
Will Mauga be around after this year in a coaching capacity? That’s yet to be determined, but it seems like a good bet that you’ll be able to find her somewhere in the game of softball, imparting her hitting wisdom onto other young players around the country.