Arizona softball underclassmen are team leaders
In college sports, there comes a time when leadership and responsibility are passed from the elder generations of athletes to promising underclassmen in the hope that their legacy and work ethic will remain to strengthen the team in upcoming years.
Last year, Arizona’s softball team relied heavily upon upperclassmen Brigette Del Ponte, Lini Koria, Jessica Spigner and Kristen Arriola to lead its offensive attack. This year, the Wildcats have passed the torch from seniors and juniors to sophomores and freshmen to better suit the young team.
Offensively, the Wildcats are led by sophomores Chelsea Goodacre and Hallie Wilson and freshmen Lauren Young and Mandie Perez.
Combined, the four average a .341 batting average, .592 slugging percentage and .406 on base percentage.
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Softball took on UCLA this weekend and lost the series 2-1.
In comparison, the overall team line this year comprises a .300 average, slugging percentage of .462 and on-base percentage of .376.
“I think the underclassmen have done a good job,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “They are a consistently strong group and are always striving to improve.”
Goodacre has enjoyed a breakout year both at the plate and behind it. The catcher has compiled a nearly spotless .996 fielding percentage, has committed just one error and leads the team with 14 home runs, 51 RBI and a .706 slugging percentage.
She will go into the final nine games of the year with a .419 on-base percentage, the third-highest on the team.
Wilson, the team’s everyday first baseman, has been one of the most consistent contributors for Arizona this season and leads the team with 56 hits, 27 walks and 35 runs scored to accompany her team-leading .477 on-base percentage.
“I see myself as being a leader by example,” Wilson said. “I hold myself to a pretty high standard, and I just would like to keep doing what I can do for my team.”
To date she is batting .381 and has recorded eleven doubles, six home runs and 20 RBI.
While some players are ready to take on responsibility to lead the team, others still feel as if they need to constantly improve and make necessary adjustments to succeed.
“As a freshman, [I am] still learning the game,” third baseman Young said. “There are still a lot of adjustments to make, but we are a young team and I’m confident that we will be able to learn from our past mistakes.”
So far in her freshman campaign, she has compiled a respectable .303 average, 40 hits, 11 home runs and six doubles and has provided the Wildcats with 25 runs and 33 RBI.
In addition to her offensive skill set, Young has also shown flashes of defensive versatility, and despite leading the team in errors with nine, she has helped her teammates out of many jams this season.
“Lauren has really stepped up in the infield,” Wilson said.
“She has definitely improved, and I look forward to seeing her step up and continue to get better during these last few series.”
Perez has contributed with a consistent season and balances Arizona’s lineup, providing power in the bottom half of the order. The left fielder is hitting .304 and has compiled four homeruns and seven doubles in 35 hits this season. In 45 games played, she has compiled a .367 on-base percentage and is slugging .470.
“We’re still learning a lot,” Perez said. “Our role right now is to make the most of our opportunities and produce when we have the chance to.”
After getting hit in the face by a line drive before the first tournament of the season, freshman phenom Nancy Bowling seemed unable to muster up much control against opponents as a starting pitcher. As a result, she has compiled a 4.44 ERA and accumulated a 4-5 record in 12 starts and 23 appearances.
Bowling occasionally showed flashes of brilliance this year and proved to be comfortable enough to throw complete games on two separate occasions. She has impressed with a strong will to get ahead in the count and has struck out 71 opponents in 63 innings.
“[The accomplishments of the underclassmen] just shows how hard we have been working and how much we are learning,” Perez said.
“We don’t think of ourselves as ‘underclassmen.’ We are part of a team, we play as one and don’t separate from each other.”