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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea gets 1,400th win

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Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea fist bumps with Arizona left fielder Chelsea Suitos (3) during Arizona’s 10-2 win against UC Riverside at Hillenbrand Stadium on Saturday. Candrea won his 1,400th game on Friday to become the second winningest coach in NCAA softball history.

After finishing the Mary Nutter Classic in a disappointing fashion, No. 15 Arizona softball bounced back to go 6-0 in the Wildcat Classic at Hillenbrand Stadium over the weekend and improved to 17-3 on the season. But the main story of the Wildcat Classic was Arizona coach Mike Candrea securing win No. 1,400 against UTEP.

“It means I’ve been in the game a long time,” Candrea said. “Had some good players, good coaches, and it’s definitely in today’s world; the longevity factor is not always there. I’m just blessed that I have been able to be at Arizona for over 30 years and been able to coach some good players and some good teams.”

His players could not agree more and celebrated with the second winningest NCAA softball coach of all time after their victory.

“It’s kind of a big honor,” Arizona catcher Chelsea Goodacre said. “Coach is a big guy in the softball world so to be apart of this program and just one of his players is a great honor.”

The rest of the tournament provided the Wildcats with the confidence boost they needed after their poor hitting performance in Palm Springs, Calif. The Wildcats were able to win by mercy-rule in four of their six games.

“We finally started turning things around at the end, but we still aren’t quite where we need to be,” Candrea said after Friday’s two victories. “Each week is kind of like a test for us. We got through it today; we have to get through it tomorrow.”

The highlight for Arizona on the mound throughout the tournament was pitcher Michelle Floyd. She pitched 16 and 2/3 innings throughout the weekend, recording 20 strikeouts and giving up just one earned run. She threw a career-high nine strikeouts in her final performance. Her Wildcat starting counterpart Trish Parks pitched 13 and 1/3 innings, giving up just three earned runs and throwing 10 strikeouts during the tournament.

“I just went out there and pitched,” Floyd said. “I just go out there and try to give it my best every chance I can. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Just go out there and do my best.”

In Arizona’s first two games of the tournament, the Wildcats defeated Colorado State 6-3 and UTEP 9-1 under mercy-rule on Friday night. Goodacre went 2-4 in the game against CSU and hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Arizona left fielder Chelsea Suitos was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate against UTEP while leading the Wildcats with two RBIs and three runs scored.

Arizona added another two runs off an RBI triple from redshirt senior Kellie Fox and an illegal pitch in the second. Right fielder Katiyana Mauga hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning, stretching the lead to 6-1.

Arizona faced UC Riverside and UT Arlington on Saturday, defeating both 10-2 by mercy-rule. The victories displayed Arizona’s impressive hitting performance.

Suitos once again led the Wildcats offensively against UC Riverside, finishing 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Third baseman Lauren Young finished 2-for-3, capped off by a solo home run.

The UT Arlington game showcased close family ties between Kellie Fox and UT Arlington coach Kristie Fox, who is her sister. Kristie Fox was also an All-American for the Wildcats and a member of one of Candrea’s National Championship teams.

First baseman Hallie Wilson went 3-for-4, while second baseman Mo Mercado and Goodacre went 2-for-3 each. Goodacre added her fifth home run of the season as well.

The Wildcats finished the tournament by defeating Bryant twice on Sunday, 6-5 and 18-1, respectively.

Arizona capitalized on extra base hits in the first game and scoring four runs in the fourth inning. Wilson went 2-for-3 on the day with a double and two RBIs. Left fielder Mandie Perez hit her first home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth, which winded up being the difference.

Bryant came just one run shy after a grand slam off relief pitcher Nancy Bowling in the seventh inning. Parks came in to shut the door and earn her first career save.

In the second game against the Bulldogs, Kellie Fox hit a double to score two, and Mauga hit a three-run homerun to anchor the seven-run second inning. The game quickly got out of hand after an eight-run fourth inning that led to the mercy-rule win in the fifth.

“It just shows how strong we are on offense,” Mauga said, “and even with two outs, we just pull through for ourselves and just have to work hard.”

Moving forward, the Wildcats will face UNLV at home for a pair of games on Wednesday at Hillenbrand Stadium.

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Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.

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