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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pitching duo gets help from alums

Arizona softball has had its share of problems this season, whether it was the lack of “timely hitting,” as head coach Mike Candrea puts it, defensive lapses, or a lack of energy starting games. The one part of the Wildcats’ play that was never expected to be a question was the quality of pitching from aces Kenzie Fowler and Shelby Babcock.

Fowler has dealt with her fair share of adversity this season, battling back strains, the flu, and confidence issues following the emergence of Babcock as an equally valuable hurler for Arizona (38-17).

“Having two pitchers for us is very important,” Candrea said. “We have not had one pitcher that I thought could dominate for seven innings. The one thing we’ve always talked about is maybe using both of their strengths to keep people off balance by using a combination of the two.”

Luckily for the Wildcats and Candrea, Fowler and Babcock are playing their best softball at the right time.

In the NCAA playoffs, Fowler and Babcock have combined to allow just 2.79 runs per game and have only walked three batters in three games.

“Babcock is throwing about as well as anyone right now,” Candrea said. “Kenzie has made some strides and is feeling good, we just have to take it one day at a time.”

Candrea attributes the hard work of Fowler and Babcock to his coaching assistants, Stacy Iveson and Alicia Hollowell.

“I give a lot of credit to coach Iveson and coach Hollowell for the work that they’ve done not only the physical part but mental part,” Candrea said. “I think right now they’re at a good place. Hollowell is someone that will call you out, too. Neither one of them are the all-positive, ‘It’s going to be a great Wildcat day’ type. They’re going to be realistic, but Stacy’s always trying to find the button that’s going to help them.”

Hollowell, an All-American pitcher from 2003-2006 made the transition from Director of Operations into a coaching role to help get Fowler back on track.

Hollowell is Arizona’s career leader in victories (134), innings pitched (1,122) and strikeouts (1,768), something Iveson says gives her a unique opportunity to relate to Wildcat pitchers.

“Alicia has done an amazing job as far as bringing a pitcher’s perspective and saying ‘I’ve been in your shoes, I’ve had those exact things happen to me, I’ve dealt with the good and the bad,’” Iveson said. “I think hearing that and using those types of experiences and knowing that people struggle, but learning that people move forward from it is the perspective that they’ve taken.”

While Hollowell agrees that her positivity has been key, she minimized her role in improving the fortunes of Arizona’s pitchers.

“I don’t think it’s been my role at all that’s changed that,” Hollowell said. “It’s just been the story of the season, the struggles in the beginning, and staying where they need to be to have these clutch performances now. Sometimes it’s hard when you just do well, do well, do well, do well, and it sounds easy and you never have to push yourself further. You have to grind through it.”

These “clutch performances” have the Arizona softball program in a familiar position, as they are now just two wins away from entering the final group of eight, which will be played in Oklahoma City, Okla. If the Wildcats want to make it that far, they will need Fowler and Babcock to stay at the top of their game, with a little help from Hollowell and Iveson.

“I love Alicia,” Babcock said. “She has given me so much feedback on pitching and just the game. She gives so much back to me. I love having her there. I look up to her a lot.”

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