The best quotes and notes from softball media day
The Arizona softball program hosted it’s first media availability of the season last week. Several players, as well as head coach Mike Candrea, fielded questions which ranged from the disappointment of last season’s early tournament departure to the graduating seniors.
Taylor McQuillin; Pitcher
Taylor McQuillin came in to close Baylor out in the final game of the Super Regional. Needing three outs to go to the Women’s College World Series, McQuillin gave up a three run home run to give Baylor a 6-5 lead, which would eventually be the final score. Even with the new season approaching, McQuillin admits that the Baylor game will always be a part of the team.
“I think it [the loss] still sits there, in everyone’s minds," McQuillin said. "It’s in the past now; we kind of got to move forward from it, I think. The biggest thing is to come out strong, and stay strong throughout the year.”
McQuillin was second in the pitching staff last season to senior Danielle O’Toole. When asked how it feels to be the ace, she spoke about how it feels to be looked up to the way she looked up to O’Toole.
“I think it’s a little bit of a different feeling," McQuillin said. "I went from having Danielle O’Toole, the upperclassman, kind of doing everything with her, following her around. Now this year the roles have kind of reversed a little bit. We have a lot of younger girls that came into our program that aren’t just pitchers, but underclassmen.”
She had a sub- .200 ERA last year and will look to repeat it.
Jessie Harper; Infielder
Jessie Harper had summer travel plans canceled thanks to the Baylor Bears.
“I had my bags packed for Oklahoma City (the site of the Women’s College World Series). I was not thinking of anything other than Oklahoma City," Harper said. "Obviously, we want to take that day by day, and those games by games, but I had Oklahoma City on my mind. I did not plan to be driving home the following day.”
Fresh off a very successful freshman year, Harper’s advice to the incoming freshman would be to keep the big picture of the season in mind, rather than little hot streaks.
“For the incoming freshman, I would just take it game by game, and not let the highs get too high, and the lows get too low. It’s kind of one of those things, where, you don’t know what’s going to happen until you get out there, so just take it pitch by pitch, and hope everything goes from there.”
Aleah Craighton; Outfielder
Aleah Craighton transferred to Arizona recently, following a shake up of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns program. Craighton cited the culture coach Candrea has cultivated as motivation for coming to Tucson.
“On my visit, I really just loved the environment. I love Tucson," Craighton said. "I met the girls, and I loved them, and I fell in love with the coaching staff, too.”
Candrea stated that it was a two-way street with Craighton, and that she needed to be a good fit in the culture. When asked about the recruiting process of both Craighton and transfer Alyssa Denham, Candrea said that character is as big a factor as playing ability.
“You’re always looking for someone that can come in and help you, but you’ve got to be very careful that it’s not just a great player, but a quality human being that’s going to fit in, because they’re walking in in January. This team’s been together since September, so the chemistry of the team is very important to us,” Candrea said.
Alyssa Denham; Pitcher
Denham transferred to Arizona from the Ragin' Cajuns with Craighton. Denham cited the history of the program as a major reason she chose UA.
“I really enjoyed this coaching staff," Denham said. "I like working with coach T [Taryne Mowatt] and I wanted to have a coaching staff that’s successful - a good track record, consistent.”
Denham also said that having the older Craighton with her helped the transfer process.
“We’ve gotten super close, and we were good friends last year, so having her be with me as we get used to a new environment, new people, it’s really nice," Denham said.
Coach Mike Candrea
Candrea is very big on the culture of his clubhouse. He likes to stick with his players all four years, because it gives him, his coaching staff, and the older players that he’s coached to help the athletes transition from kids to solid adults with good character. Family is a strong theme in the program.
Candrea also spoke about how the newcomers would fit in the lineup.
“If I gave you a report today, I’d say both young ladies have a chance of helping us," Candrea said. "They’ve blended in quite well. They’re good people, they work hard, and so, it might be one of those situations where it’s a good fit.”
Both transfers are going to play a role in this team. Denham will get her opportunities in the circle, and Craighton will be able to find a spot in the lineup. It could be at DH, or it could be in the outfield. A lot of that rests on the health of returning starting centerfielder Alyssa Palomino.
Follow Max Cohen on Twitter