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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Watson has been the speed behind Arizona softball

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Tanner Clinch

Arizona softball outfielder Eva Watson (14) runs down the first base line during Arizona’s 9-1 victory over San Jose State on Feb. 14 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Watson is second on the team in stolen bases with six and has been a driving force behind the team’s recommitment to speed this season.

In the introduction for the 2006 comedy “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” the screen reads: “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed. —  Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936.” While the Will Ferrell-led comedy might have been a fictional story, that opening scene is a keen reference to American sports culture. Fast is good, but faster is better.

While she might not be Ricky Bobby, Eva Watson has been the speed that has made the No. 15 Arizona softball team go. Watson is a threat to create havoc with her legs at any given time.

The sophomore outfielder from Victoria, Va., rarely played last season during her true freshman year. Watson was a pinch runner and rarely played the field. However, a hole opened up in center field when 2014 outfield mainstays Alex LaVine and Courtney Rodriguez left the team through graduation and a transfer, respectively.

It just so happened that the hole was Eva Watson-sized.

The sophomore has made the most out of her opportunity, batting .436 and ranking second on the team with six stolen bases this season.

“It honestly means a lot,” Watson said. “It’s great to finally have this opportunity.”

When asked where her speed comes from, Watson said it is a “natural gift.”

“I say it’s like a God-given gift,” she said, “but Rob, our trainer, has helped me a lot with that first step. I still do extra work in the weight room every single day just to make sure I maintain it.”

She’s arguably the fastest player on the team and has come to terms with constantly being on the move both in the box and on the base paths.

“Coach has told me before that when I get on base, I’m not going to be standing still,” Watson said. “Mentally, I prepare myself every time, and anytime I get a chance to look at the pitcher, I’m getting my timing down, because every single step is crucial.”

While that first step might be the most important for Watson when stealing a base or laying down a bunt, steps two, three, four and on seem to be just as fast, if not faster.

“The first step is very important, because I have to get going, but then … I can’t leave early,” Watson said. “It’s hard, because I know I’m going to need to steal, and I get so anxious.”

Watson’s teammates and coaches have taken notice of her speed. Arizona coach Mike Candrea said Watson is one of several speedsters on the team that makes a difference.

“We have a lot more depth than we’ve ever had, [and] that depth is speed,” Candrea said. “We can steal some bases and make some things happen. It’ll be interesting to see how that all develops, but we have some pieces.”

Pitcher Nancy Bowling reiterated the presence of numerous speed options on the team and isn’t quite sure who the fastest player is, but Watson is up there.

“That’s tough; it [depends] on what you’re doing,” Bowling said. “I’d say [the] top three are Eva, Alexis [Dotson] and [Chelsea] Suitos, and any single one of them can win any day.” 

While it’s impossible to figure out who the fastest on the team is without several different types of races, one thing can be said for certain: Watson makes fast look slow and will continue to do so for Arizona softball.

Because, in the end, fast is good, and faster is better. Going slow just isn’t an option anymore.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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