The start of a brand new year is an opportunity many people in this world crave, an opportunity to have a clean slate, to go on without past failures influencing the results.
The Arizona softball team’s new season is just around the corner, and around that corner is an opportunity for a once dominant program to re-establish itself among the collegiate elite. The person leading the charge for the Wildcats is senior pitcher Taylor McQuillin.
The southpaw is one of the West Coast’s most experienced pitchers, going 28-12 with a 1.68 earned run average in 2018 and leading the Wildcats to another Super Regional berth.
Arizona was matched against historic rival UCLA, and though McQuillin dominated most opponents during the 2018 regular season, the results in those Super Regionals weren’t pretty. The Bruins prevailed over McQuillin and the Wildcats to pave their way to the College World Series in a two-game sweep in Westwood.
The results last spring haven’t been lost on the senior ace.
“But every year leaves a stinging mark, you know,” McQuillin said during media availability with Tucson media. “We get so close and come so far during the season and just fall short every time, so this year, we are hoping to make a difference and take Arizona back to where it’s been.”
The long offseason has been a source of change for the Arizona program. The new Hillenbrand Stadium aims to signal a new era and hopefully new fortunes as the ‘Cats looks to make their first College World Series since 2010. As the structural foundation of UA softball gets improvements, the heartbeat and leader of the team is chomping at the bit to write the perfect ending to her story as a Wildcat.
“I think we are all itching for the first year in the new stadium,” McQuillin said. “And for the seniors you know, it’s our last year to make a big impact on Arizona softball.”
The new stadium is a perfect backdrop for a change in the wind for Arizona, with the current postseason drought the longest since the early 1980s, when the program was in its infancy and missed the postseason entirely for six straight seasons.
As the senior leader, the expectations heaped on the shoulders of McQullin are high. The pitchers and players that have come before her set such a standard of excellence that is hard to live up to.
The postseason escapades of pitchers before her cast a giant shadow, one that looks like the “new Rita” according to head coach Mike Candrea.
The new stadium is the perfect backdrop for McQuillin to etch herself into Arizona lore as the bridge between the old era and the new, as Arizona looks to use its new home as a fortress against the rest of the Pac-12.
But for the Arizona ace to be able to dominate, the demons of past failures has to be put to rest, like the old Rita that was torn down just a few months ago.
“I think every year, as it keeps going, it always stings a little bit. It always hurts,” McQuillin said. “But it makes you stronger. It gives you that motivation and that edge to want to push forward.”
McQuillin will be remembered as a strong leader and great ambassador for Arizona, but with a couple breaks her way, she could catapult herself into being one of the most important Arizona players this decade. We’ll just have to sit back and see.
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