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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona softball opens fall season with some changes

Kyle Wasson
Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat Tucson native and NJCAA All-American, Estela Pi

Arizona’s softball team will open its fall season on Sunday with a double header, taking on Yavapai College at 2 p.m. and Eastern Arizona College at 4 p.m. at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.

The Wildcats have undergone a significant change since the spring, with only half the roster returning.

“We have eight returning players, and eight new players that will be going through the fall for the first time,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “There is a learning curve that needs to take place in the fall. I think the most important thing right now is that we are getting a chance to find out what our young kids can do and try to put the team together.”

The eight newcomers include freshman pitcher Nancy Bowling from Southern California, junior-transfer pitcher Estela Piñon from Yavapai College, freshman second basewoman Madie Perez from California, freshman outfielder Gabbie Sandstedt from Glendale, Ariz., freshman first basewoman Darcy Taylor from Oklahoma, freshman infielder Lauren Young from California, junior utility catcher Kelsey Rodriguez from Scottsdale, Ariz., and utility freshman Courtney Rodriguez from Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I’m excited about this group because not only are they a good group of people, but they are a good group of athletes that work very hard so it has been fun,” Candrea said.

Playing Yavapai College and Eastern Arizona College will give the newcomers the experience they need to adjust to Arizona’s program and will also provide the entire team with the opportunity to gel together as one unit.

With senior pitcher Kenzie Fowler undergoing back surgery on Thursday and missing out on the fall season, Bowling, Piñon and junior Shelby Babcock will fill in for her in the pitchers circle.
Babcock competed with Fowler last season, notching 164 strikeouts and earning the title of Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week during the week of April 4.

“She did an outstanding job last year carrying the load at times when I thought we needed her to step up,” Candrea said.

As for Piñon, she will be facing her former teammates in the Wildcats’ first game on Sunday. Piñon finds familiarity with the coaching staff as she joins assistant coach Stacy Iveson again – in Piñon’s freshman year, Iveson was head coach at Yavapai College and led the team to the NCAAJC Championship in 2011.

“Both Piñon and Bowling will give us some quality innings this year,” Candrea said. “We dearly miss Kenzie right now, but this gives us the opportunity to give more playing time to the two young players.”

Beyond the extensive roster changes, there have been some changes to the coaching staff as well.
Candrea added volunteer coach Mark Blair, who took the place of Candace Abrams after she took a head coaching position in Colorado. Blair served as assistant coach at Flowing Wells High School and Pima Community College. He also has over 40 years of experience playing men’s fast pitch.

Candrea also moved Alicia Hollowell to assistant coach and hired Caitlin Lowe as the new director of operations. Hollowell, Lowe and Iveson are all former Arizona softball players, which gives Candrea an advantage as a head coach.

“All of them bring something different to the table,” Candrea said. “Alicia’s challenge is to cultivate our pitching staff and be able to work with them. Since she has been in the circle, she can relate very well with anyone that is pitching at this level.”

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