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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Finch shined on mound, off field”

    JAKE LACEY / Arizona Daily Wildcat 

The 1996 National Championship Alumni took on other alumni on Saturday afternoon at Hillenbrand Stadium. The 96 team, anchored by softball assistant coach and former player Nancy Evans, defeated the other alum 8-1.
    JAKE LACEY / Arizona Daily Wildcat The 1996 National Championship Alumni took on ‘other’ alumni on Saturday afternoon at Hillenbrand Stadium. The ’96 team, anchored by softball assistant coach and former player Nancy Evans, defeated the other alum 8-1.

    The Arizona softball program has produced several elite All-American pitchers, most recently the Wildcats’ senior, 127-game career winner Alicia Hollowell, as well as current assistant coach Nancy Evans, who won 124 games for Arizona from 1994-1998.

    But sandwiched directly in the middle of Evans and Hollowell, playing for the Wildcats from 1999-2002, is Jennie Finch.

    Along with three other Wildcat alumni and fellow Olympians, Finch will be honored Friday with one of the quartet throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

    Finch, 25, is arguably one of Arizona’s most famous alums. She is known throughout the softball world as being one of the premier pitchers of the recent past, and off the field she has achieved more fame than any other softball player in history.

    “”It’s really flattering,”” Finch said. “”It’s pretty cool. I’m so blessed to be able to be a professional athlete and make a living that way.””

    “”Jennie is a very pretty girl,”” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “”So I think some of her notoriety is due to her good looks, but most of that notoriety is because she is such a great athlete.””

    She was recruited from La Mirada High School in La Mirada, Calif., where she played basketball, volleyball and softball. Her high school numbers made her the most heavily recruited player out of high school in 1998, and Finch was well on her way to pitch for one of the most storied college softball programs.

    “”She had a great career,”” Evans said. “”We’ve had a long legacy of great pitchers at Arizona, and she added to that. The great thing about Arizona tradition is that we have great pitchers that come in, work hard and do well, and she definitely added to that list.””

    It is debatable whether Finch helped Arizona bring in more elite softball players since her arrival in 1999, but both Evans and Candrea feel that she was the main attraction.

    “”She helped Arizona stay at the top so we could continue to add to that list,”” Evans said.

    Candrea recognized Finch’s presence at Arizona but also mentioned that the team around Finch was a very storied team.

    “”Having someone like Jennie brought notoriety to Arizona,”” Candrea said. “”But it was the teams that had won the national championships, and that was what put them on the map.””

    I’m hoping to play in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

    – Jennie Finch
    former Wildcat pitcher

    Finch started her college career off with a bang, leading the Wildcats to the NCAA Women’s College World Series in her freshman year. The team lost, but the pitcher still posted 24 wins, which was second to her teammate Becky Lemke’s 25 wins as a freshman in 1998, and she even threw a no-hitter in NCAA regional play.

    After posting dominant pitching statistics, Finch also led her team at the plate with 14 doubles and 21 extra base hits and finished second with seven home runs.

    Her sophomore year brought more good fortune for Arizona on the mound as well as at the plate when she led the team with a .370 Pacific 10 Conference average and had a 14-game hit streak, the high for the conference that year. Finch also started to play first base during her sophomore year beside posting three no-hitters in the NCAA Regional Final.

    In her junior year, the trend of good pitching, hitting and playing first base continued as she led the Wildcats to the NCAA Women’s College World Series. She was by far the most dominant overall player in collegiate softball in 2001, as she finished the season with a 32-0 pitching record, which established the NCAA record. She won the Honda Softball Award as the National Player of the Year as well as receiving the Most Outstanding Player honors after posting a 3-0 record the World Series.

    Finch’s other awards that year included first-team All-America honors and the 2001 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.

    “”Jennie had a phenomenal college career,”” Candrea said. “”She gained a lot of notoriety and since has been a tremendous ambassador to our program. It doesn’t hurt to have a good spokesman who was also such a good ambassador for us.””

    Finch had a streak of 40 consecutive victories, which ranks second in the NCAA record book. When Finch wasn’t pitching, she was the first baseman or designated player, and she had a career batting average of .309.

    In one game, Finch drove in nine runs against Oregon, which tied for the second-best single-game figure in NCAA history.

    A year after her career ended after posting such gaudy hitting and pitching statistics, Finch’s No. 27 was retired by Arizona in 2003 in a pre-game ceremony.

    Some of her other achievements outside softball include being a host on the weekly FOX program “”This Week in Baseball.”” On one episode, Finch went head-to-head with some of the MLB best hitters and was able to strike out such superstars as Alex Rodriguez on three pitches.

    After her college career, Finch was a pitcher on the 2004 Olympic gold medal softball team. She has since moved to pitch professional softball and this summer will play for the Chicago Bandits before moving onto other endeavors.

    “”I’m hoping to play in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing,”” Finch said.

    Finch is married to Tucson Sidewinders pitcher Casey Daigle, and the two are expecting their first baby in late April.

    “”I don’t feel like I’m married to a professional baseball player,”” Finch said, noting however that it is convenient for them that they are both pitchers. “”He’ll catch for me, and I’ll catch for him a little bit, but we try not to critique each other too much because it’s not good.

    “”But really we can’t spend our whole lives on the field.””

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