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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona Wildcats softball plays first conference road game of the year

Tyler+Baker++%2F++Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A+%0AThe+UA+Softball+team+lost+for+the+second+time+to+Washington+Monday+night.+They+played+a+total+of+3+games+against+Washington+and+lost+2+of+them.
Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA Softball team lost for the second time to Washington Monday night. They played a total of 3 games against Washington and lost 2 of them.

This week Arizona softball plays its first conference road games of the year, which will also mark the Pac-12 debut of Utah’s brand new stadium.

The Utes (13-13-1, 0-3 Pac-12) christen their new digs by hosting Utah Valley and No. 22 Arizona (21-10, 1-2).

“I think that any school that’s right now in the Pac-12 needs to kind of look at their opportunities to recruit, and facilities are a big part of this generation,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “They’re doing what they need to do to be competitive, and it’s a good thing, I think, for everyone.”

This week Utah plays its first home games of the season after going 3-4 in road games and 10-9-1 in neutral site games. Arizona heads north for its first conference road games of the season with a 14-2 home record and a 7-8 neutral record.

The Utes will play this season at the partially completed Utah Softball Stadium; a permanent building is being built around the field. It will feature dugouts equipped with restrooms, an indoor batting area for Utah, outdoor batting cages for both teams and permanent concessions areas.

Another new feature will be six banks of lights so Utah can play night games. The stadium-opening game against Utah Valley was Tuesday night and the first two Arizona games will be played at night.

The dimensions are 235 feet to center field and 225 feet in right and left. The capacity of the stadium is 900, complete with armchair seats covered by a canopy. Temporary bleachers can be added behind left field so Utah can bid to host the NCAA tournament.

Hillenbrand Stadium is a bit bigger — Arizona has averaged over 2,000 fans a game the last four years, including 2,328 last year.

“Altitude has a big effect, because the ball carries, absolutely, even here, with no humidity here, the ball flies out of here pretty good too,” Candrea said. “I’d like to move our fences back to about 225 all around, 220, all the way around, but we don’t have the room to do it.”

High school reunion

This weekend junior pitcher/designated player Estela Piñon (7-3) will see a familiar face: Her former battery mate from Tucson’s Sunnyside High School, the Utes sophomore catcher/first baseman Desaray Akins.

Akins, who hit .120 with one home run, five RBI and a .361 on-base percentage last season, is redshirting this season.

Last season, Akins played in 25 games and made seven starts.

In high school, Piñon and Akins led Sunnyside to state championship runner-up in 2010.

Piñon said she hasn’t talked to Akins since last year and hasn’t seen Akins much since graduating high school. Piñon spent her first two years in college at Yavapai in Prescott, Ariz., before transferring.

“We were really close. I mean, obviously, she was my starting catcher,” Pinon said. “She caught me not only through high school, but club ball too.”

Softballs take flight

Hillenbrand has been homer-happy the last two Arizona home series.

Arizona, Washington and Boise State have combined to hit 26 home runs in the last six games at Hillenbrand.

In the three-game set with the Broncos, they combined to hit 16 round trippers, including 12 by the Wildcats. On March 9, Arizona set a double-header school record with nine home runs against BSU, including four by freshman third baseman Lauren Young.

Piñon hit her first NCAA home run against Boise State and gave up a few to the Broncos and Huskies.

“I feel like Tucson is a dry place and the ball travels more than anywhere else,” Piñon said. “I believe they were just good hitters.”

In the UW series, the teams combined to hit 10 long balls, four by Arizona.

Candrea said that for the most part, he did like how the Wildcats have swung the bat.

“I just think there’s other parts of the game that we need to get better at,” Candrea said.

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