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Wildcats win one for Candrea, who should return soon

Brigette Del Ponte

Brigette Del Ponte

Arizona Wildcats softball coach Mike Candrea, who had been hospitalized for two days after complaining about chest pain, sent a text to his players and staff on Tuesday morning.

Most importantly, it said he was OK, resting comfortably, able to go home.

And then Candrea, apropos of someone who just had a health scare, left a message for his team to take into its home game against San Diego State:

“Play for the moment.”

The Wildcats — buoyed by Candrea’s positive health news and playing to win one for their absent coach — defeated San Diego State 8-0 in a five-inning mercy-rule game in front of 2,360 at Hillenbrand Stadium on Tuesday night.

“I told the girls today, ‘Let’s play one for him,’” said assistant coach Larry Ray, who served as acting head coach.

“I don’t know if that worked or not, but they were relaxed and did the things they were capable of doing.”

Said sophomore pitcher Shelby Babcock: “It was really good motivation. We just did it for Coach.”

Arizona will play San Diego State again on Wednesday afternoon beginning at 3 p.m. Candrea’s return was uncertain as of Tuesday night, with Ray pointing toward Thursday’s practice.

“If he feels great and wants to take over (Wednesday), he’s welcome,” Ray said.

Babcock helped make it a stress-free night for the Wildcats, striking out one and walking none in five scoreless innings. Arizona scored five runs in the bottom of the second inning, powered by a three-run homer by Brigette Del Ponte.

Lini Koria added a solo shot to center field in the fourth, with Del Ponte pushing the lead to 8-0 later in the inning with a opposite field shot to right.

Del Ponte said it was a day of double relief: To hear directly from Candrea for the first time since he had suffered from what was called stress-related symptoms and to “score all those runs and keep the lead.”

Arizona (20-8) was coming off being swept in three games at Arizona State despite leading in every game, so the victory over San Diego State (18-18) also helped the Cats get over that emotional hangover.

“We were all so bummed,” said Del Ponte said, who is from the Phoenix area. “Those are my good friends over there and they keep sending my text messages, so it was tough. It was a tough weekend and a tough experience.”

Tuesday was a much better day.

Starting left fielder Karissa Buchanan has missed the past three games after suffering a concussion at Arizona State on Friday night. She is not expected to play Wednesday against SDSU. Nicole Bryan started in her place… Del Ponte has seven home runs on the season; freshman shortstop Shelby Pendley leads with nine. … Del Ponte, a junior, has 45 career home runs, which ranks 13th on the UA list. Koria, a senior, is 12th with 46.

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