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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona Softball — the UA’s most consistent program?

Arizona+softball+athletes+celebrate+outflieder+Alexis+Dotson+as+she+races+toward+home+plate+during+Arizona%26%238217%3Bs+7-4+victory+over+Houston+on+April+9.
Carmen Valencia
Arizona softball athletes celebrate outflieder Alexis Dotson as she races toward home plate during Arizona’s 7-4 victory over Houston on April 9.

When current Arizona Coach, Mike Candrea became the UA’s head softball coach in 1986, not even he could foresee the incredible success that lay ahead for his new program.

In contrast to the UA’s reputation for fostering up-and-coming athletic programs, the longest standing successful program at Arizona has been—and still continues to be—Candrea’s softball teams. In the 30 years since Candrea took the job, he has won 1,468 contests and has advanced to the Women’s College World Series an impressive 22 times.

Arizona has won the national title eight timesin those 22 appearances, and has produced some of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

The most notable Arizona softball alumna is Jennie Finch. Finch became the most recognized athlete on campus during her time at Arizona due to her performance on the mound. Her dominance was unparalleled in what is now known as the Pac-12 Conference. She tossed a remarkable eight no-hitters during her four years in Tucson and retired as the school’s career leader in every major pitching category.

Finch is still recognized as one of the greatest softball players of all-time.

Other Wildcats such as Jenny Dalton, Nancy Evans, Susie Parra and Julie Reitan have their names forever embedded on the outfield wall at Hillenbrand Stadium. All of these players were the benchmark for their respective positions during their time at Arizona. Jenny Dalton was a slugger who retired as the leader in many of the Arizona batting categories, most of which still stand today. Evans was an all-time-great pitcher for the program, and would later become a nationally renowned pitching coach. Parra and Reitan round out the group of retired players, and were two of the earliest faces that lifted the program to national recognition. The most recognizable face however, will always be head man Candrea.

Candrea has been the face of Arizona softball since the mid-1990s. Shortly after his arrival, Arizona softball became the premier program in the premier softball conference in the nation. Since 1986, more than half of the national championships won have come from Arizona and UCLA.

Candrea built a national brand that brought a lot of attention to Tucson.

Year after year, Candrea attracts the top recruits in the nation and is always known for landing the best pitchers in the country. During the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games, Candrea served as the head coach for the United States National Team and brought home a gold medal in 2004.

During those Olympic years, Candrea was not given credit for any of Arizona’s wins during the season. This is important because had he been awarded those victories, he would be the NCAA’s all-time winning-est coach, by a mile.

As it stands today, Candrea trails only the Michigan’s Margie Wright for all-time victories. However, he does own the all-time record for wins at the Division I level.

The program has been in a “drought” over the last six seasons, and has not reached the Women’s College World Series in this time span.

Arizona softball has been ranked in the top-15 in each of those seasons, and has still produced multiple all-Americans each year.

The Wildcats will be a highly ranked team to begin the 2016-17 season, but that is nothing new.

Surprise, basketball fans, Arizona is a softball school.


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