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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Senior transfer “falling back in love” with softball

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Colin Prenger
Colin Prenger / Daily Wildcat Jessica Spigner

This year’s UA softball team has a potent mix of experience, youth and talent, which is the norm for a Mike Candrea-coached team. But there’s one thing that’s different from a typical Arizona team — some of the experience comes from outside the program.

Jessica Spigner, a senior transfer from Tennessee, has had a roller coaster of a career. She’s “carried her high school team” to the tune of a national championship and been named to the EA Sports First-Team All-America list twice. As a freshman at Tennessee, she led the team in doubles, set the freshman record for home runs with 14 and was honored as an all-conference player in the SEC.

Spigner’s sophomore and junior seasons were equally impressive, as she hit over .320 in each season with power to spare, having more extra base hits (28) than singles (22) her junior year, while hitting 24 home runs in her sophomore and junior seasons combined.

What Spigner didn’t have, however, was a sense of family or a sense of home.

Spigner, a Santa Clarita, Calif., native, grew up surrounded by the game. Her mother was one of her first coaches, and put her in a T-ball league at an early age. Her influence, along with the influence of her high school coaches, made the game a part of Spigner’s daily routine. She was eating, breathing and living softball.

“I’ve grown up playing this sport, since T-ball, and listening to my coach talk about the game, about respecting the game, I’ve always wanted to play for a coach like that,” Spigner said. “I played for a coach like that in high school, my mom was also a coach like that. Being around that really fuels the energy inside of me.”

As a high school student, Spigner wanted to play for Candrea after meeting him at a camp, but the coaching staff had already filled its scholarship limit and was unable to extend an offer to her.

“She was at a couple of my camps,” Candrea said in a phone interview. “She was definitely a kid that I wanted very badly. I knew that she was a good player, but things didn’t quite work out and she went to Tennessee. We feel very fortunate she’s in a Wildcat uniform today.”

Spigner headed to Tennessee, but felt out of place. She was successful, but after “rough moments,” she transferred closer to her California home, citing personal reasons. After the move, Spigner said she wanted to fall in love with the game again.

“I kind of fell out of love with it, but (then) I came here,” Spigner said. “Being around these girls, just being around a bunch of people who want the same thing is really refreshing. Being around people like me who will do anything and everything for this game, who love it, who don’t want it to end is a great feeling.”

Her senior season is only six games old, but Spigner has already made an impact on the field for the Wildcats. In just 12 at bats, Spigner has already hit two home runs, driven in seven runs, and is batting .500. Defensively, she has a .958 fielding percentage — the second-highest on the team among players with 20 or more putouts.

Spigner has even shown her versatility in the pitching circle despite admittedly disliking the position. Her lone appearance on the mound was a victory for the team in which she gave up only three hits and one run. Her willingness to do anything for the team is one of her best attributes as a player, Candrea said.

“She brings a lot of experience, a lot of stability,” Candrea said. “She’s a fierce competitor, she’s been through the wars over the years, so nothing is going to faze her. She’s been a valuable piece to our puzzle.”

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