Kenzie Fowler back for more
Arizona softball pitcher Kenzie Fowler was so excited to start her (second) senior season last Friday that she forgot something pretty important: her uniform.
Fowler (1-0) eventually suited up and led the Wildcats (3-0) to a 9-0 win against Southern Mississippi. In her first non-exhibition game since 2012 on opening day, Fowler struck out two and allowed two hits and zero runs in four innings of work.
“I guess you could say I was a little too excited to be out here and I wasn’t thinking too clearly, but I was just excited to be back,” Fowler said.
In October 2012, Fowler had a microscopic lumbar discectomy to repair a herniated disc on her back.Last March, she decided to take a medical redshirt and sit out the 2013 season after missing 20 games.
Kenzie Fowler, who has been recovering from a back injury, pitches the last two innings of the softball game against Southern Miss on Sunday. The team won 12-0.
“I’m glad to have her back; it’s good to have her back on the mound and I thought she did a good job,” head coach Mike Candrea said on opening day.
In her second appearance, on Sunday, Fowler came out of the bullpen to help secure Arizona’s 88th no-hitter. Fowler retired all six batters she faced, striking out five.
“She’s extremely talented, so it’s really nice to have her back and healthy and feeling good,” said assistant coach Alicia Hollowell, who coaches pitchers. “I’m super excited about having her knowledge and talent as a pitcher back to really lead this staff.”
Fowler said it was tough watching the team last year without her — the Wildcats suffered 26 losses, the most defeats in program history — but she learned from it.
“No athlete ever wants to sit out — it’s not a fun thing — but I tried to take it for what it was and get the positives out of it,” Fowler said. “I learned a lot about the game, learned a little bit about myself.”
Hollowell, the UA’s career leader in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts, said that Fowler compares favorably to Arizona’s great pitchers.
“I think she is definitely up there, she’s such a smart pitcher,” Hollowell said. “The ball comes out of her hand so lively that I think being able to be healthy and get through a season healthy, she’s really going to do a lot of good things for us.”
The UA’s storied program has produced eight national championships and is known for dominant pitchers. As a freshman, Fowler almost joined that pantheon of greats.
In 2010, she was a first team NFCA All-American and a USA Softball Player of the Year finalist and was named All-Women’s College World Series, leading the Wildcats to the championship series against UCLA with Arizona’s fifth national runner-up finish.
Fowler, who earned a journalism degree at the UA in December, was named outstanding graduating senior by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and gave a speech at the SBS convocation on Dec. 19.
“I think Kenzie’s definitely one of our most intelligent players,” Hollowell said. “If she ever wanted to get into it, she’d be a really good coach because she sees the game that way. She learns fast and she can read things and pick up tendencies, and she’s really softball smart.”
In 2010, as a freshman, Fowler’s record was 38-9 and her ERA was 1.53, while her sophomore year she was 26-9 and had a 1.87 ERA.
As a sophomore, Fowler was second-team NFCA All-American, Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention and USA Softball player of the year finalist.
As a junior, her ERA was a career-high 2.85, and her record was 15-9 while dealing with multiple injuries, including the start of her back injury.
In 2007, she needed three surgeries to fix blood clotting in her throwing arm and nearly died. Her sophomore year of college she got hit by a foul ball and was hospitalized.
She didn’t blame the injuries, though.
Fowler, who prepped at Canyon del Oro High School in the Tucson area, said she is feeling the best she has felt in five years.
Junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre said Fowler’s pitching keeps getting better.
“Every day she comes out here and she gets better, and that just gives us promise for the future — that every single day she will be better — and hopefully we’ll be playing the last game of the year,” Goodacre said.
If Fowler does lead the Wildcats to another championship series, she’ll have plenty of practice remembering her uniform.
—Follow James Kelley @jameskelley520