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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Candrea a model of coaching consistency

    Mike Candrea
    Mike Candrea

    With all of the coaching accolades Mike Candrea has received in his lifetime, winning the Coach of the Year award from the Wildcat is just another one for the books.

    But in a year when he led his team to its seventh NCAA Championship under his reign, the honor goes to Candrea.

    “”It’s a very good honor,”” Candrea said. “”Anytime you get those types of things, number one, you reflect upon the players and reflect upon your staff. It takes a lot of people. Usually when that happens, you’re doing things right. You take it as a compliment. I’m very grateful for it.””

    After leading his team to the Women’s College World Series title, Candrea spent the rest of the summer leading Team USA to a World Cup of Softball title and a gold medal at the ISF World Championships in Beijing, and even led the Americans to a victory in the Japan Cup.

    Players have grown fond of Candrea, widely regarded as the best softball coach in the world, both on and off the field.

    “”What I like about coach Candrea the most is his sense of humor and how he really keeps you in perspective,”” said UA shortstop Kristie Fox. “”He expects a lot out of all of us and he pushes us every day to be the best.””

    Candrea has led his Arizona teams to the Women’s College World Series 18 times in the last 19 years, and the only time the Wildcats didn’t make it, Candrea had the year off to coach the U.S. Olympic team.

    Last year Candrea’s team was one of two teams to finish in the top 10 nationally in ERA, batting average and fielding percentage.

    “”If there was anyone else coaching here, I would have second-guessed my decision”” to play at Arizona, said catcher Callista Balko. “”It’s just an honor to be underneath him. He’s basically the god of softball. He can see anything about your hitting or defense, and he’ll fix a problem within five minutes.””

    Candrea became the fastest NCAA coach to reach 1,000 career wins, and reasserted Arizona as the top softball program in the country.

    “”Everyone in this world likes to know that they’re doing the right thing,”” he said. “”I think it’s a reflection on the whole program more than anything. It means our program is where I’ve wanted it to be for many, many years.””

    Off the field, Candrea tied the knot in December, marrying the former Tina Tilton just before the new year.

    “”I think there are a lot of great coaches at the U of A,”” Fox said. “”I’m kind of biased since I’m a softball player, but I definitely think he deserves it this year.””

    Runner-up: Andy Lopez, Baseball

    He won his 200th game at the Wildcats’ helm this season, but what baseball’s Andy Lopez has done with a roster comprised largely of underclassmen – 26 of 33 – has been most surprising.

    Lopez’s Wildcats were supposed to be a year away from making any noise in the Pacific 10 Conference, but they did just that with a sweep of defending national champion Oregon State in late March as part of a 16-game winning streak.

    Now, Lopez features arguably the most balanced team in the Pac-10 behind a 1-2 pitching punch of Preston Guilmet and Brad Mills and an offense that ranks second in the conference in hitting.

    It’s also a young bunch some feel has a legitimate shot at hosting a regional come June.

    – Ryan Casey

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