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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Keeping with the tradition

    Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

The University of Arizona softball mercy rule defeats Simon Fraser University.
    Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat The University of Arizona softball mercy rule defeats Simon Fraser University.

    Softball

    Arizona has been at the pinnacle of college softball throughout the entire Mike Candrea era with expectations of consistent play and results – especially in the circle.

    Jennie Finch. Alicia Hollowell. Tayrne Mowatt.

    Pitching for the Wildcats is a once in a lifetime chance, and a dream come true for walk-on pitcher and redshirt senior Jennifer Martinez.

    College has been an up and down road for Martinez and she faced a long path on her journey to join Arizona softball. Two stops at California schools and a long red-shirt year have paved her way to finally pitching in an Arizona uniform. In 2009, her pitching brings new dimension to the diamond for the Wildcats.

    “”It’s been a roller coaster but I wouldn’t change it for anything else,”” Martinez said. “”I just wanted the opportunity to walk on here and see if I could do it.””

    Her story begins with former Arizona pitcher Susie Parra. Parra, the player of the year for 1994, played under Arizona head coach Mike Candrea from 1991-94. Martinez and Parra have been connected since Martinez’s middle school days.

    Martinez, an English major and La Habra, Calif., native, began her college softball career at Cal State Long Beach, where she pitched for two years. Difficult circumstances caused Martinez to question her love for softball, and she questioned whether she would continue to play at all.

    “”My first two years, it was really hard. I was working with a coach that was very difficult,”” Martinez said. “”He basically tore me down mentally and I just didn’t want to stay there because I wasn’t happy there anymore.””

    She transferred to a Division II school – Cal State Dominguez Hills – for a year. Martinez went 17-21 with 3.89 ERA over 235 innings. During this year, Martinez grew on the mound and continued to work with Parra to advance her pitching.

    With her Arizona connections, Parra suggested that the timing was right to take a chance at Arizona. Mowatt was in her senior year, and the opportunity for Martinez to see game action at a high level presented itself.

    “”I thought she was kidding at first and was just, kind of, in disbelief about it, and then was like, ‘You know what, it’s a chance of a lifetime,'”” Martinez said. “”Why not? I took that chance.””

    Candrea added: “”Susie’s a former player here and that’s a nice connection. She said this kid wanted to walk on, and coming from someone I know, I will certainly open my arms and give her an opportunity.””

    Martinez’s lucky connection paid off. Her focus and hard work were rewarded as she made the Arizona team in 2007. The advantage of her year at the Division II level was clear as she showed mental and emotional growth. The only downside was being forced to sit out another year due to transfer rules.

    “”Redshirt was one of the hardest things I had to do because you put in the hours of practice, you put in the conditioning and the weights, but you know that you’re not going to be able to play that weekend,”” she said. “”That was the hardest.””

    After three years of patience and focus, Martinez has found a spot on the Arizona rotation. She has won five games and has struck out 60 batters so far this season. Her pitching style and her changeup gives Candrea a different look when it comes to keeping opponents off their game.

    “”We might try that approach where we tell them to give them one time through the lineup and then we bring in someone else,”” Candrea said. “”We’ll probably sandwich Jen between the other two because the other two are so similar.””

    Her transition to Arizona softball has been relatively smooth. Because of Parra’s familiarity with the program, Martinez had the advantage of being used to Candrea’s coaching style.

    As the season continues for the Wildcats, the certainty of the pitching rotation still lies in question. Candrea’s biggest advantage when facing opponents is the option of selecting the pitcher that best fits his needs at that time.

    “”She absorbs things and is willing to try things and willing to change,”” Candrea said. “”That has really worked into being a positive attribute for her.””

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