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Mike Candrea cuts eight, pares Arizona softball roster to 15

Mike Candrea is more comfortable with a small roster. 2009 Tucson Citizen photo

As promised, Arizona Wildcats softball coach Mike Candrea made significant cuts to the roster after fall practice, paring his team to 15 players.

Among the cuts were four players who were on the roster last season — senior first baseman Alicia Banks, sophomore infielder Ashlee Brawley, junior outfielder Becca Tikey and catcher Shannon Tinlsey.

Among those, Brawley, a walk-on from Cienega High School, saw the most playing time. She appeared in 23 games, starting 15 at shortstop, where starter Chelsea Suitos missed almost the entire season because of injury. Brawley batted .270.

“This is something that we built up to. Everybody knew,” Candrea said of his plan to shorten his roster. “We talked about it at the end of last season. We had it on our calendars — the day it was going to happen.

“I’m very sensitive to it, obviously. You don’t like to do that. … There were some hard decisions, but there was a lot that went into it. It wasn’t something that was just done like that,” Candrea added, snapping his fingers.

Arizona had 20 players on the roster last season. While some coaches prefer to keep large rosters of 20 or more, Candrea’s track record at Arizona through eight national championship seasons has been to have a smaller roster.

“When you have a large number, it’s very inefficient in practice,” he said.

“I just felt that the kids who were competing and playing weren’t getting what they needed to develop to where we need them to be. I thought it was time to get back to 15-16 players.”

Others who were cut were invited walk-on pitcher Kiley Shae Aldridge and a trio of players who joined the team as walk-ons in the fall — outfielder Brittany Keiser from Yavapai Community College, outfielder Morghan Doughty (a Cienega grad who played last season at Colorado State) and infielder Taylor Newman from Phoenix.

“We went through a very thorough evaluation process,” Candrea said. “I took input not just from the coaching staff, but the players also.”

Candrea said he met individually with each player and showed them the results of the evaluations from the coaching staff and their peers. Each player’s graph plotted several factors, including performance and effort.

“I think this was a really good thing for them to be able to take a look at that,” Candrea said.

He said he is helping the cut players find new teams.

Aldridge, a left-hander, was potential insurance on a pitching staff that once again will have only two full-time players — junior Kenzie Fowler and sophomore Shelby Babcock. When Fowler was out with a concussion late last season, it was a free-for-all as position players tried to help out in the circle.

The team’s third pitcher this season will be Tennessee transfer Jessica Spigner, who is expected to mostly handle third base and be a middle-of-the-order slugger. She pitched 20 innings in three seasons with the Vols.

“Spigner was a pretty good pitcher in high school,” Candrea said. “We’re preparing her to be the No. 3 if need be. She brings a little more to the table than what we had.”

Here is Arizona’s roster heading into the 2012 season:

Pos. Player, class
2B Kristen Arriola, Sr.
P Shelby Babcock, So.
OF Nicole Bryan, Sr.
OF Karissa Buchanan, Sr.
UTL Sam Davis, Fr.
SS/3B Brigette Del Ponte, Jr.
P Kenzie Fowler, Jr.
C Chelsea Goodacre, Fr.
1B Baillie Kirker, Jr.
C Lini Koria, Sr.
UTL Alex Lavine, So.
SS Shelby Pendley, Fr.
3B/1B Jessica Spigner, Sr.
2B Chelsea Suitos, Fr.
OF Hallie Wilson, Fr.
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