"Fall softball gives young players experience, fun"
Although it's only fall ball, fans admirably filled the Hillenbrand Stadium stands Sunday to enjoy a free afternoon at the ballpark. Young softball players watched their college idols and avid fans got a solid first-glimpse at the team's newcomers. Here's a look at the sights, sounds and thoughts in the Wildcat's season before the season.
• Last year, savvy role player Jill Molina was Arizona's go-to pinch runner, but on Sunday, she was giving advice to the Wildcat runners on base. She played first base coach while head coach Mike Candrea watched the game from the dugout and assistant coach Larry Ray slid to third base coach.
• Sophomore first baseman Alicia Banks may not get much playing time and she might not have tallied a hit Sunday, but she succeeded in terms of pure power hitting. To the dismay of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity's always-present balcony crowd, one of her foul balls traveled three-quarters of a block, hitting the fraternity's roof.
• Candrea was upbeat about the work ethic of his team and their positive attitudes.
""I think that this team has really done a good job in practice,"" he said. ""They've worked very hard and they've picked some things up, but it's just of a matter of being together more when it comes to team defense with communication.
""Today was a day to get the freshman in and see what they can do,"" Candrea added. ""It's kind of like taking a test. You take a test to see where you're at and then you get back to work.""
The players also mentioned their enthusiastic outlook on the young season.
""We have really good team chemistry so far,"" freshman Matte Haack said. ""We're having a lot of fun at practice and running.""
• The Wildcats may have been playing against junior college competition in Sunday's 12-0 win, but the Roughriders of Yavapai College are no slouches. They won the 2009 NJCAA National Championship under head coach Stacy Iveson, who played at Arizona from 1985-89 before coaching under head coach Mike Candrea from 1994-2001.
• Freshman pitcher Kenzie Fowler struck out the first Roughrider batter of the game and walked the second after failing to find the strike zone. Those apparent nerves faded quickly; she finished with 14 strikeouts, the same number as now-transferred pitcher Lindsey Sisk had in Super Regional play against Stanford.
• A record-setting year for the Arizona's home run statistics was last season's high point. This year's team has more speed, Candrea said, a fact highlighted by sophomore Karissa Buchanan and junior Lauren Schutzler's consecutive slap-hits that ignited the offense and set up a nine-run third inning.
• Redshirt junior catcher Stacie Chambers did not dress for the game due to undisclosed reasons.