UA’s Candrea has two top sophomore pitchers in recruiting classby Anthony Gimino on Jan. 11, 2010, under Sports
The immediate pitching future of the Arizona softball team looks bright because of the addition of freshman Kenzie Fowler, but coach Mike Candrea already has worked to extend pitching dominance well into the decade, well past Fowler’s four-year span.
The Wildcats have commitments from arguably the two best sophomore pitchers in the state of California – Nancy Bowling of Royal High in Simi, and Bri Matthews from Mater Dei in Santa Ana.
If all goes well, they will arrive at Arizona for the 2013 season, when Fowler will be a senior and signee Shelby Babcock will be a junior.
Just like in men’s basketball, softball players are committing earlier and earlier. Arizona is one of the teams that is leading the trend.
Why? Mostly, because Candrea and his staff can.
Offering scholarships to players who are so young can be dicey and be something that backfires, but the Wildcats are dealing with elite recruits — the kind who are easier to evaluate and are usually highly motivated to continue to improve.
Candrea can’t talk about specific recruits, but I asked him Monday about the pros and cons of early commitments.
“You wonder how a kid who is a sophomore in high school really knows what they want to do and where they want to be,” Candrea said.
“But fortunately there are some kids who do their homework and they know. The fortunate thing about it is that it helps us because of the tradition we have. We feel pretty good about the future and some verbals we have gotten from kids.”
Matthews “is supposed to be the best 14-year-old pitching prospect in the state,” according to a story last summer in the Los Angeles Times.
Bowling was selected the softball freshman of the year by CalHiSports.com after a season in which she posted a 0.43 ERA, striking out 301 and walking just 44, in 180.1 innings.
Even at such a young age, both pitched last summer in the 18-and-under ASA Gold Championships — the top tournament for travel ball teams — for the Orange County Batbusters. The Batbusters are one of the storied teams in club softball and have long been a pipeline of talent for Arizona.
Arizona has two known commitments from high school juniors — outfielder Hallie Wilson from Foothill High in Orange County and power-hitting catcher Chelsea Goodacre of Temecula Valley (Calif.) High School.
“Right now, it’s kind of nice to look at your roster and say that we’re done with 2010 (recruiting) and we’re done with 2011 and almost done with 2012,” Candrea said. “That kind of sets you up for a while.
“On the other hand, you don’t know if that kid is going to continue to grow. A lot of questions on that.”