Arizona softball transfer joins ex coach, faces former team

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Kyle Wasson

Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat Tucson native and NJCAA All-American, Estela Pi

James Kelley

Estela Piñon is a Tucson native who used to pitch for Yavapai College. When Piñon decided to transfer from Yavapai, an NJCAA powerhouse, it made perfect sense to travel just down the road from Yavapai to the UA.

“We’re really excited to have her,” head coach Mike Candrea said.

“She’s homegrown, so coming from Sunnyside High School, I think is a big plus for us and hopefully for our fans and the community.”

In 2011, Piñon played for Arizona assistant coach Stacey Iveson, who was the head coach of Yavapai at the time, and together they won the NJCAA national championship. Piñon was named team MVP in 2011.

“I’ve watched her grow up in Tucson playing softball and she’s always been really, really successful,” Iveson said. “She’s just a super hard worker and she’s exactly what you’d want in someone on your team.”

Piñon was an All-American at Yavapai.

“It’s my hometown obviously, and who wouldn’t want to come to U of A?” Piñon said.

Piñon said she grew up going to UA games and after playing at Hillenbrand Stadium in high school, she made it a goal to play there again.

“That was always my dream, coming to the U of A, pitching on that mound,” Piñon said. “I was like ‘Oh my god, I hope I can one day be here on this team’ and obviously now it’s a big honor to be here.”

Piñon was named most valuable pitcher in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in 2011 and conference player of the year and MVP in 2012.

“I saw her when she was younger and hoped I’d get a chance to coach her at Yavapai,” Iveson said. “I was fortunate to be able to work with her there for a year, and then when I left, she went on and had a great sophomore year.

“Coach Candrea was very impressed with her in the fall and I had told him great things about her and the fact that she would fit in really well here.”

On Sunday, the Wildcats open the fall exhibition schedule against Yavapai at 3 p.m. at Hillenbrand Stadium, and Candrea plans to pitch Piñon against her former school.

“It’s very exciting and little bit awkward,” Piñon said of pitching against Yavapai.

Piñon compiled a 51-6 record and had 481 strikeouts with a 1.64 ERA in 346.1 innings in her Yavapai career.

“She’s a very talented athlete that is really learning how to spin the ball a little more than just being a thrower,” Candrea said.

“But she’s got a lot of tools and I’m really excited to watch her in some scrimmages in the next week or so.”

Iveson said she is learning off-speed pitches from assistant coach Alicia Hollowell, a former Wildcats pitcher.

“She throws hard. She’s got some really good movement,” Iveson said. “Rise is probably her strength, but she’s learning some other pitches form Alicia, which will help.”

Iveson recruited Piñon to Yavapai and then to Arizona.

“She had to do a lot with it because obviously she already coached me once, and so it was kind of nice to have her back coaching,” Piñon said.

Senior pitcher Kenzie Fowler will miss the fall season because of a lingering back injury, meaning Piñon and the other pitchers will see more action in the fall.

“Right now it really gives our other kids a chance to pitch a few more innings,” Candrea said. “So I think it will be good for our development as a team down the road.”