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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball wants to go fast

Arizona+softball+outfielder+Eva+Watson+%2814%29+sets+up+for+a+catch+during+Arizonas+6-2+win+against+Loyola+Chicago+at+Hillenbrand+Stadium+on+Saturday.+Watson+and+the+Wildcats+have+stolen+20+bases+so+far+this+season.
Tanner Clinch

Arizona softball outfielder Eva Watson (14) sets up for a catch during Arizona’s 6-2 win against Loyola Chicago at Hillenbrand Stadium on Saturday. Watson and the Wildcats have stolen 20 bases so far this season.

Speed kills. For Arizona softball, speed has been the driving force behind the team’s success over the first nine games of the 2015 season. The Wildcats have 20 stolen bases in 20 attempts after recording 24 stolen bases all of last season.

Arizona softball head coach Mike Candrea rarely sent runners last season, due in large part to speed not being as prevalent. Power dominated as the Wildcats led the nation with 109 home runs. Thus, speed was an afterthought.

“We have a lot more depth than we’ve ever had [and] that depth is speed,” Candrea said. “We can steal some bases and make some things happen. It’ll be interesting to see how that all develops, but we have some pieces.”

Despite the majority of those home runs returning this season, Candrea’s recruiting class has brought in a multitude of speed options — mainly in the outfield — to that power dynamic.

Outfielders have accounted for 17 of the 20 stolen bases this season. Seven different Wildcats have snagged a bag this season, with outfielder Eva Watson leading the way with six stolen bases in nine games. Outfielder Chelsea Suitos and utility player Ashleigh Hughes aren’t far behind, with four stolen bases each.

For some context, Watson and Suitos combined for 12 stolen bases all of last season. They’re already at 10 combined.

“I really think it’s the speed we have on our team; coach has a lot of faith in us, but we also have a lot of faith in our batters too,” Watson said. “I guess, really, it’s just coach having faith in his runners.”

The rest of the team is starting to notice, too. Starting pitcher Nancy Bowling said she feels the team’s speed even from a defensive perspective.

“It’s great [because] we have so much range out there, and it’s fun watching them race in our conditioning and stuff,” Bowling said. “They’re just so fast, and you wonder how do they get that fast. But it’s nice, you know, even those littler dinkers you see get through on other teams, our team is able. You blink, and they’re there. It’s clutch.”

Catcher Chelsea Goodacre, who’s thrown out all three stolen base attempts against her this season, said she understands what speed can do to a team.

“That’s huge, because that really kills the vibe of the other teams when you get stolen bases,” Goodacre said. “I know what it feels like to get stolen bases on me, so I think that’s a huge asset to us.”

Goodacre added that the team has a different and more diverse offense this season knowing that not every hit needs to be a home run.

“I like it a lot, because some days, the home runs aren’t going to be there, and it’s nice to know we’re going to have the speed to back us up,” Goodacre said. “Same thing when speed is not there: We’re going to have the home runs to back us up. It’s kind of just an all-around better team.”

As the Wildcats head to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Mary Nutter Classic from Thursday to Saturday, Candrea can rest assured knowing speed travels — and kills.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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