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Arizona softball suffers setback at shortstop

From left: Arizona freshmen Chelsea Goodacre, Shelby Pendley and Hallie Wilson were teammates on the U.S. junior national team. Photo from USA Softball

As Arizona Wildcats softball signee Shelby Pendley rounded third base, she had a bad feeling.

“I was like, if that ball was hit where I think it was, there is no way I’m making it home,” she said.

It was July 1, and Pendley was playing for the U.S. Junior Women’s national team in Bowie, Md. It was the last of six summer exhibition games against Team USA. It was the last inning. It was down to the last out.

And then came the play that might cost the Arizona Wildcats their potential starting shortstop in 2012.

Pendley was on second base when the ball was hit to right field. Trailing 7-0, coach Karen Johns waved Pendley home.

“I just put my head down and kept running,” Pendley said. “When I looked up, the catcher had the ball behind the plate. I tried to plant with my right side to get the inside of the plate … and it felt like my knee went out and then in. I knew right away.”

Knew right away that she had torn her ACL.

Pendley, a slugging left-handed shortstop from Rio Rancho (N.M.) High School near Albuquerque, underwent surgery on July 21.

With the prospect of a six-to-nine-month rehab, the optimistic outlook is that Pendley could be back a couple of weeks before the start of the season in February. Or perhaps she would be able to hit as the designated player, while not playing the field. Or maybe this will just have to be a redshirt season.

Arizona struggled at shortstop last season when freshman Chelsea Suitos suffered a season-ending shoulder injury early in the year. The Wildcats mostly went with a combination of Alex Lavine and Ashlee Brawley, both walk-on freshmen.

Suitos returns — and both walk-ons are expected back for fall practice — but coach Mike Candrea said he has another option. Tennessee transfer Jessica Spigner — who hit 38 home runs in three seasons with the Vols — could handle third base, with incumbent third baseman Brigette Del Ponte moving to short.

Meanwhile, Pendley will arrive in Tucson this weekend to prepare for the beginning of school, continuing her rehab and getting to know her teammates. She already knows two incoming freshmen pretty well — outfielder Hallie Wilson and catcher Chelsea Goodacre were teammates on the U.S. junior team for the past two summers. (Read Goodacre’s blog at USAsoftball.com.)

Pendley will miss the Junior Women’s World Championship (19-and-under) in Cape Town, South Africa, in December.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Pendley said of playing on the national team, despite the unhappy ending this summer.

“I was like mad at everybody after it happened, kind of like in a bad mood,” she said. “But I’m not necessarily feeling sorry for myself. I’m not asking myself why. Things could be a whole lot worse.”

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