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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Softball kicks into gear

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After nearly bringing a ninth national championship back to Tucson in the 2010 Women’s College World Series, the Arizona Wildcats began spring practice this week in anticipation of the 2011 season. Despite being a few weeks away from the first official game, there are plenty of items of note heading into the 2011 — including the situation at starting pitcher.

Backing up the ace

The end of the 2010 season saw Arizona’s run come to a screeching halt when pitcher Kenzie Fowler was no longer able to pitch without intense pain in her pitching arm. Depth in the pitching circle has been a problem for the Wildcats the past few years, and head coach Mike Candrea is confident in freshman pitcher Shelby Babcock.

Her teammates feel the same way.

“”We have another pitcher behind us, a good, decent pitcher that we can trust, so that will be good,”” said sophomore third baseman Brigette Del Ponte.

The Broomfield, Colo., native was named Colorado’s Gatorade Player of the Year and Sportswoman of the Year her junior and senior seasons. During her senior season, Babcock pitched 122 innings with just a .06 ERA and will prove a workable backup to Fowler throughout the season.

Del Ponte also said that Babcock might even split time with Fowler so that both pitchers’ arms are fresh, should the Wildcats make another post season run.

“”It’s very important because Kenzie (Fowler) gets more rest and Shelby’s very good, so they’re going to share a lot of time,”” Del Ponte said. “”Shelby (Babcock) does throw pretty hard, but Kenzie (Fowler) has more of the movement, and I think Shelby is learning that right now.””

Softball begins new partnership

Mizuno USA Inc. announced Jan. 4 that it signed a multi-year deal with Arizona softball to supply equipment, including the Frenzy 3.0 fastpitch bats for head coach Mike Candrea and the Wildcats.

Since Arizona has a clothing contract with Nike, Candrea said that Mizuno would be providing only the equipment and that Nike would continue to be the team’s apparel.

“”We’re still a Nike school apparel wise, but right now we’re using Mizuno bats, and gloves and protective gear,”” Candrea said. “”We’re very excited about our relationship with them. They’re a company that has done a really good job of growing the sport and very interested in getting down to the grass roots, and that’s the one thing that I wanted.””

Positions up for grabs

With the graduation of K’Lee Arredondo, a four-year starter at Arizona, the all-important shortstop position was left up for grabs. Candrea said four players are currently battling to take over for Arredondo, who started 174 games at shortstop for the Wildcats. Freshmen Chelsea Suitos, Ashlee Brawley and Alex Lavine along with sophomore Matte Haack are all battling for the positions.

“”Chelsea (Suitos) is more of the quick one, but Ashlee (Brawley) will stop every ball,”” said Del Ponte. “”And Alex (Lavine) will get dirty for everything and Matte (Haack) just knows all the knowledge and stuff so they all have one special characteristic that makes them very good. “”

Suitos saw time during fall ball, but Candrea said he wouldn’t name a starter until he’s seen the freshman in game action in the spring.

“”I think we have three or four kids that can play that position,”” Candrea said. “”As a coach, you’re trying to find the best offense with the best defense.

“”I don’t need the big play. I don’t really need a lot of offense in that position right now, but I do need someone that is going to make 100 percent of the routine plays right now.””

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