Now Reading
Candrea hopes Babcock backs up Fowler on mound

From the archive: This story is more than 10 years old.

UA Wildcats softball

Candrea hopes Babcock backs up Fowler on mound

With the graduation of Wildcat softball pitchers Sarah Akamine and Ashley Ralston-Alavarez in 2010, head coach Mike Candrea knew he had to fill the second and third slots of his starting rotation.

Sophomore pitching ace Kenzie Fowler returns to the mound this year in the number one slot, but who is going to provide support for her?

Enter Shelby Babcock, a freshman prep school recruit from Broomfield, Colo. She pitched throughout the fall against the National Pro Fastpitch All-Stars and the Arizona Alumni team, and Candrea hopes Babcock can reduce Fowler's workload in 2011.

"I think consistency is going to be key for (Babcock)," Candrea said. "I think if we get consistency out of her, it's going to make us a lot better, because the more innings she can throw, the less innings Kenzie (Fowler) has to throw."

Fowler pitched in 52 games last season, tallying 284 1/3 innings.

Along with her, the University of Arizona returns nine of its 10 regular starters from last year and includes five newcomers to the team. Returning starters include power-hitting cleanup catcher Stacie Chambers, speedy outfielders Lauren Schutzler and Karissa Buchanan and versatile leadoff hitter Brittany Lastrapes.

The Wildcats also remain consistent at their bases: the sure-handed fielder Baillie Kirker at first, the Kristen Arriola/Victoria Kemp dual combination at second and the run-producing Bridgette Del Ponte at third base.

"We have a tremendous mix right now of experience and youth," Candrea said. "We can get people on base and then we can drive them in. I think Bridgette Del Ponte will be a huge key. Lini Koria has tremendous power…We have speed in the top and bottom of the lineup. This team is well-balanced."

Five freshmen join the Wildcat ranks:  Babcock, Chelsea Suitos, Ashley Brawley, Jordy Clifton and Alex Lavine.

"Alex Lavine is a kid that walked on, and I'm excited that she's a part of this program," Candrea said. "Ashlee Brawley has done a good job of picking things up, Chelsea Suitos will be a good player for us. They all have good work ethic and bring something to the table."

The position of shortstop is the biggest question mark heading into the season, which begins on Feb. 10 against Indiana in Tempe. Right now, the top two contenders for the role are Suitos and sophomore Matte Haack.

"We like to have our middle infielders interchangeable," Candrea said. "So, (when you're talking about positions) up the middle, it's about who can play defense and be consistent."

With their starting lineup pretty much set, the team looks to return to and win the Women's College World Series. After dropping the WCWS last year to UCLA, the Wildcats hope to change their 2010 outcome this season, if they make it back.

"Any time you go through an experience like (losing the WCWS) as an athlete, you're going to learn something from it, and I think this group has," Candrea said. "They're very motivated to play and win the last game of the season and try to put their part in Arizona softball history with all the others that have been here. I think it's a team that's very driven right now."

The Wildcats open their season at home against Texas A&M Corpus Christi at 6 p.m. on Feb. 18.

Filed under

sports, softball, college, breaking,

— 30 —

Top headlines

Best in Internet Exploder