The 2014 Arizona softball team finished the season with a 44-16 record overall, including a 31-3 record at home. The Wildcats were ranked in the top 10 for the majority of the year and finished the season tied for 14th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll.
“It was a good year,” UA head coach Mike Candrea said. “Obviously, there are very few programs in the country where the bar is raised so high as it is here at Arizona. Our goal and our job every year is to get to the [College World Series] and play the last game of the season. That will never change.”
What went right?
As a team, the Wildcats hit an NCAA-leading 109 home runs and finished near the top of other vital offensive categories like batting average (second) and runs per game (first).
“I don’t want to single out one player but we had a lot of players who I thought put some numbers up this year for us,” Candrea said.
Among six players who hit double-digit home runs, the offensive charge was led by junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre and freshman outfielder Katiyana Mauga.
Goodacre led the team in home runs (22) and RBIs (72) while starting all 60 of Arizona’s games this season as catcher. Her 22 home runs gave her sole possession of 10th place in program history for single season home run numbers.
Mauga showed incredible poise and consistency in her freshman season by finishing second on the team in home runs (20) and tied for the 12th best single-season home run mark in Arizona history.
In addition, two Wildcats were named NFCA All-Americans. Junior utility Hallie Wilson was named to the first team as a first baseman and redshirt junior Kellie Fox was named to the third team as a shortstop. They are the 51st and 52nd All-Americans in program history.
After an up-and-down junior season, senior pitcher Estela Piñon emerged as the staff ace this season. Piñon finished the year 19-9 with a 3.09 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 163.1 innings of work.
What went wrong?
While Piñon shined, the rest of the pitching staff was in shambles. Redshirt senior pitcher Kenzie Fowler was the presumed staff ace coming into the season and quickly lost that title.
On the mound, Fowler struggled with command as she walked 83 batters in 66.1 innings. Off the mound, injuries took their toll and forced her season to end due to thoracic outlet syndrome.
The inconsistency and eventual loss of Fowler put Candrea in a tough spot, as Piñon had to shoulder the brunt of the load. When Piñon had an off game, the team struggled mightily to find a replacement.
What’s next for the Wildcats?
Candrea said that regardless of how the team did this season, his goal is to improve in all aspects of the game for next year. In particular, Candrea said the team needs to work on executing in critical situations.
“There are some areas where we need to get better at, including executing the game under pressure,” Candrea said. “I think everyone in the country is trying to figure out the same thing.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseofPayne555