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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Frosh shortstop skipping the learning curve

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The learning curve is supposed to be steep for a freshman playing Division I softball. It should be even harder for a freshman playing at a prominent program like the UA and for a legendary coach like Mike Candrea.

But it’s not for Shelby Pendley, a freshman who is starting at shortstop for the playoff-contending Wildcats. Pendley has the confidence and moxie of an experienced senior, rather than someone who’s played just 43 games in her college career.

“I was expecting it to be a little bit tougher, not that it isn’t. I just thought it would be a lot harder than what it is,” Pendley said. “I thought the pitching would be really, really good. It’s good, but expected it to be much worse.”

Pendley, a Rio Rancho, N.M., native, was called “a big, strong hitter” by head coach Mike Candrea while she was in high school. He also said she was “the best player out of Albuquerque in a long time,” while recruiting her. Pendley batted .586 during her senior season with 12 home runs, both of which were good for second-best in the New Mexico’s 5A classification.

Arizona (31-12, 8-7 Pac-12) had a real scare while Pendley was playing for the U.S. Junior Women’s national team during the summer. In the last exhibition game, during in the final inning and in the final out, Pendley tore her ACL as she left second base on her way to home plate.

A torn ACL typically keeps players out for an entire season of play no matter the sport, costing Pendley a chance at not only the starting lineup but her shot at proving herself in the regular season.

“I thought if I was healthy I would start, but if I wasn’t then I didn’t think I would,” Pendley said. “It was all a matter of if my knee was good to go or not.”

Following intense physical therapy and rehab in the summer, Pendley missed all nine games of the undefeated fall season, but says that she does not know how much of an impact she would have had in such a short amount of time.

“It sucks that I missed fall, but everything happens for a reason,” Pendley said.

Missing the fall slate gave her more time to recover before the regular season began in February. Although she missed almost seven month of action, Pendley was able to step onto the field in February as the starting shortstop for the Wildcats. She hasn’t looked back.

Aside from leading the team in batting average and home runs, Pendley also leads the team in slugging percentage and RBIs. She also has the most total bases of anyone on the team.

“Pendley has been outstanding,” Candrea said. “She’s been more consistent than I anticipated. I’ve seen big numbers put up there, but its something else to keep that consistency over a year’s period. I thought she would have her moments of urgency and other times where she’d struggle.”

Struggling is the exact opposite of what Pendley has been doing. She’s flourished at a level in which she had no prior experience, and older, more experienced players have noticed.

“She’s aggressive early,” senior Lini Koria said. “She doesn’t wait for pitches to go by. She’s just really consistent. When I saw her in practice I was very impressed. I can’t wait to see her in her senior year.”

As one of the most prolific and talented Wildcats on the team, Pendley will have to learn to deal with her growing celebrity, as her performance this season has people talking about potential All-American honors.

“We’ll see how she finishes the last nine games,” Candrea said. “As of today, she’s hard to turn down.”

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