Pair of ex-Pima players promoted to Arizona Wildcats softball
The University of Arizona softball team is not known for recruiting players from Pima Community College.
In last year’s media guide, the Aztecs only listed three players, Ashley Ralston-Alvarez in 2010 and Cyndi Duran and Jessica McNamara in 2006, who made the jump from PCC to the UA. However, this fall Arizona added two juniors from Pima.
Outfielders Gemma Contreras and Cynthia Pelayo were both Aztecs before deciding to continue their softball careers as Wildcats.
Contreras and Pelayo both said they prepared the entire summer to go out on the field as Wildcats by running and lifting.
Lili Steffen / The Daily Wildcat UA Outfielder, Gemma Contreras runs for first base after bunting the ball on Saturday. The Wildcats defeated Central Arizona 11-3.
When it comes to comparing junior college softball to NCAA Division I, both players said they were surprised by the amount of conditioning they have to do every day and the time they have to spend on their own preparing to become better players.
“I definitely had to work a lot harder on conditioning before coming here,” Contreras said.
Contreras hit .388 and Pelayo hit .440 last year at Pima as the Aztecs finished fifth in the NJCAA.
“It’s a way different atmosphere, the intensity that is brought to the field is at a whole different level too,” Pelayo said.
The two played Pima on Sunday at the Arizona Fall Invitational and both of them said that it was exciting to play against some of their former teammates.
“It’s exciting to see how they’re doing but I think there’s definitely some tension because they are the opponent and we do want to beat them because they are a junior college,” Contreras said.
Contreras went 1-for-2 and Pelayo walked twice and scored a run in Arizona’s 10-3 win over Pima.
Pelayo said seeing her former head coach, Armando Quiroz, coaching for the opposing team will be a different experience. But Quiroz said he was more than pleased to see both of his recent players on the field playing for Arizona.
“I feel like a proud papa. They were both great players for me and now I get to see them here,” Qurioz said. “They have both grown so much and look like they’ve learned a lot. I’m very proud of them both.”
Contreras led the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in runs and was third in stolen bases. Pelayo was fourth in the ACCAC in doubles and sixth in runs.
Arizona softball head coach Mike Candrea said Contreras and Pelayo were confident when they faced Pima and are both very hard workers during the practices.
“We don’t get a lot of junior college kids, but when we do, we give them the chance to compete against their old team and I think it’s a lot of fun,” Candrea said.
While being Aztecs turned UA players is unique, Contreras and Pelayo have a familiar trait, both hail from Tucson. Contreras went to Salpointe Catholic High School and Pelayo went to Vision Charter High School. They are two of the four Wildcats from Tucson, including senior pitchers Kenzie Fowler and Estela Piñon.
—Follow Rose Valenzuela @RoseAlyVal