Arizona softball coach Candrea too old?

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Briana Sanchez | Arizona Daily Wildcat

Briana Sanchez / Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA softball ends with a final score of 12-2 against Univeristy of California Santa Barbra on Saturday April 6.

Head coach Mike Candrea is getting older. There’s no doubting that.

The 57-year-old head coach has managed Arizona’s softball team for the past 28 years, and during his tenure, he has seen some of the best moments the sport has to offer, as well as the worst.

This season has fallen into the latter category, as Arizona finds its playoff chances in jeopardy for the first time in 30 years after consistently failing to produce an effective offensive attack during its past 10 games. As a result, the Wildcats have compiled a meager 2-8 record and assured that they will end season play with a sub-.500 record in conference games. Since conference play began, Arizona is 5-13 against members of the Pac-12. The Wildcats will face off against rival No. 5 ASU and No. 16 Stanford in the last six games of the year.

Arizona has done poorly against ranked teams this season, comprising a 3-14 record, and has not won a series against a ranked team since winning the series against No. 4 Washington last April, more than a year ago.

The Wildcats’ last win against a top 25 team came earlier this month in the form of a dramatic extra inning walk-off against No. 17 UCLA.

It’s no secret that Arizona’s team is coming apart at the seams. The team’s offensive skills have been silenced too easily this year, and it is clear that the Wildcats are in need of help — not only at the plate, but in terms of coaching as well — if they want to be competitive against the top teams in the nation.

After dropping out of the top 25 rankings for the first time ever last week, it seemed like this season couldn’t get any worse. But last weekend, the Wildcats outdid themselves as they settled into last place in the conference standings after stranding 34 base runners in the first-ever Oregon State sweep of Arizona in program history.

Despite being one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history and leading Arizona softball to eight national titles and 21 appearances in the Women’s College World Series since 1991, some argue that Candrea should consider retiring after this season due to his increasing age, declining health and the decreasing success of his once mighty team.

The players’ abilities don’t seem to be the biggest issue, as the Wildcats surely have the necessary talent to succeed, but they have failed to find a way to produce efficiently and consistently in clutch situations.

The lack of solid production in the category may raise questions about how well Candrea is running the team.

Unfortunately, over the past few years, Arizona has switched directions, and instead of continuing to improve, has continued to dip below expectations.

Since 2010, Arizona has seen its journey end in the Super Regional and has failed to return to the Women’s College World Series that was once so familiar.

Earlier this winter, Candrea’s best player, shortstop Shelby Pendley, left the program unexpectedly, leaving a hole in the middle of the infield and in the batting order. The Wildcats still haven’t fully recovered.

Pendley surprised the whole team when she left on a whim to play for No. 1 Oklahoma after leading the team in home runs (19) and subsequently compiling a slugging percentage of .703 and 55 RBI during her freshman year in 2012. With the news coming so soon before the start of the season, the Wildcats were forced to scramble, learning new defensive positions while dealing with the hole left in the middle of their lineup. In addition to Pendley’s departure, Candrea took another big blow this season when the pitchers he recently recruited failed to live up to their high expectations. Junior Estela Piñon and freshman Nancy Bowling were expected to make a big difference in the Wildcat rotation this year but have disappointed, combining for a 13-13 record and allowing a total of 116 runs scored in 173.2 innings pitched.

The Wildcats certainly need change to become relevant in the conference next season and in the future, but the change should be at head coach.

– Evan Rosenfeld is a journalism and communications sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @EvanRosenfeld17.

Read the opposing view by James Kelley.


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