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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Lineup changes a staple for ‘Cats

All season long, Arizona softball head coach Mike Candrea has been tinkering with the batting lineup for his Wildcats. As inconsistent as they’ve been — losing focus at the worst possible times — Candrea has also been inconsistent with the way his lineups look from game to game.

In his 27 years of coaching experience at Arizona, Candrea has been through just about everything: underachieving teams, championships — eight of them to be exact — and a week ago he cemented his legacy as one of the greatest softball coaches of all time, becoming the fastest ever to register 1,300 wins. The only thing he can’t seem to figure out is who is going to be batting in what order.

“At this stage of the game, you have some numbers to play with,” Candrea said. “You have to go with what’s hot. It’s not an exact science, but on the other hand, sometimes a little move here and there can change things.”

Candrea’s inability to set a lineup he is permanently pleased with is a testament to the versatility and growth of his team. He has said many times that the best part about his team is its ability to hit from top to bottom, the way he likes.

For example, in Wednesday’s doubleheader, the lineup in game one was set up in a different format than game two. Typically, Brigette Del Ponte bats third, a spot reserved for the best all-around hitter on the team. This puts the three-hole hitter in a position to be brought home by the cleanup hitter, the most powerful hitter on the team. In the Wildcat’s case, it’s Shelby Pendley, who leads the team in home runs and batting average.

In game two, however, Candrea moved Pendley into third, Lini Koria — who has 11 homers of her own — to fourth and dropped Del Ponte to fifth in an effort to get more RBIs, especially from sacrifice fly balls.

“I like hitting third, I like hitting up there, third’s good,” Pendley said. “Whatever I can do to help the team. I’m focusing on hitting smooth and hitting through the ball.”

However, the changes didn’t result in more hits or RBIs. The Wildcats scored three less runs and registered three less hits, and only scored twice despite loading the bases in three consecutive innings.

“I’m really happy with the lineup I had for the first game,” Candrea said. “We were getting some production everywhere. We have a couple people that are pressing a little bit, and hopefully this time off will be good for them.”

Another reason for shuffling around batters until he finds the right mix is to ensure that everyone gets their fair share of “flag holding” for the team.

“Pendley did a really good job today and I was able to pull through,” Koria said after having a two-home run day. “Everybody has a share of holding the flag on our team. You never know whose day it is.”

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