Arizona softball excited for new year after heartbreaking end to 2017

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Arizona Athletics | The Daily Wildcat Arizona opened its 2018 practice on Monday at Hillenbrand Stadium.

After a very disappointing end to its 2017 season, Arizona softball is looking ahead to the 2018 campaign. 

“I think our team is super excited,” junior pitcher Taylor McQuillin said at the team’s annual media day. “This last month leading up to season is the most crucial part of the season itself, so just getting prepared and ready to go for Feb 9, our first game.”

The team looks to advance farther than last year after losing in the NCAA Super Regionals to then-No. 17 Baylor in a best-of-three series. In the crucial game three, the Wildcats saw a 5-3 lead disappear in the top of the 7th inning, as they let up three runs that proved to be the difference in the 6-5 loss. Wildcats players still haven’t forgotten about that night.

“I think it still sits there, in everyone’s mind,” McQuillan said. “But it’s in the past now, we gotta move forward from it.”

Every year brings a new team, and because of their deep roster, this year’s team has the ability to be one of the more versatile in the nation.

“I’m toying with a few things right now,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “The one thing about this team is that, we have 23 kids on our roster right now, and so we have a lot of different options, and if I told you who was going to start the first game of the season I would be lying to you right now.”

The ‘Cats will be welcoming seven freshman to the team, and the only seniors returning are Robyn Porter and Ashleigh Hughes. Candrea was also able to land two transfers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, senior Aleah Craighton and sophomore Alyssa Denham. Craighton is a two-time All-American outfielder, while Denham, a right handed pitcher, is the reigning Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year. When asked what she thought her role would be, Denham replied she was open.

“I’m not exactly sure yet,” she said. “But I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do, whether it’s play or support, I’m going to fill every role.”

While the new recruits and transfers offer several boosts to the roster, one that Candrea is especially looking forward to is the boost in speed.

“I think the thing you’re going to see this year that we have added, is a little more overall speed,” he said. “I like that, because speed never goes into a slump. It’s usually something you can count on each and every game.”

One new face to keep an eye on as the season nears is outfielder Jenna Kean. Out of Los Alamitos, California, the freshman, who was lauded by Candrea for the speed she brings, was ranked 44th in her recruiting class by FloSoftball. According to Arizona Athletics, she had a .600 hitting percentage to go along with five RBIs and seven stolen bases as a high school senior.

“She brings someone who is legitimately a 2.7, 2.8 [seconds] runner down the line, which makes her tough to throw out if she hits the ball in play,” Candrea said of Kean.

The “new year, new us” mindset seemed to reign supreme in the minds of all the players on media day, as they tried to put last season in the rear view mirror. More importantly, they’re just excited to get this year rolling.

“It’s a new year now, and I’m excited to see what this team has made for us,” said sophomore infielder Jessie Harper. “It should be an interesting new year."


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