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Arizona Wildcats’ Spigner rediscovers home run swing at the right time

Jessica Spigner

Jessica Spigner rounds the bases after hitting a home run against Notre Dame on Sunday. Photo by Andy Morales, TucsonCitizen.com

It was one swing.

Just one swing. One swing that came after 77 at-bats with a home run.

Arizona senior first baseman Jessica Spigner, a transfer from Tennessee, slumped late in the season. Coach Mike Candrea projected her as a middle-of-the-order slugger but moved her down closer to the bottom of the order as Spigner struggled for several weeks.

And then came a swing that made everything better. It came in the bottom of the sixth inning against Oregon State on the final day of the regular season.

Spigner, who had been working with Candrea to simplify her swing, eliminate excess movement, sent a pitch from Marina Demore over the fence to tie the game at 1.

Arizona went on to win 3-1 on a walk-off home run from Brigette Del Ponte, a victory that helped the Cats stay at home for last weekend’s NCAA regional.

Spigner called that home run against Oregon State “good for the soul.”

And then she hit another homer, this one against Notre Dame, at the NCAA regional on Sunday.

“I was really happy for Spigner,” Candrea said after the game.

“Dang it, that girl has been through a bunch trying to prove to everyone that she belongs at Arizona. I was really pleased to see her make some good adjustments and swing the bat the way she did.”

Spigner has started all 55 games, hitting .257 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs. She hit .325 with 16 homers in 57 games for Tennessee last season.

Her transfer from Tennessee didn’t have as much to do about softball as it did with her happiness.

“Softball is not just about playing the game,” she said.

“It’s being with a group of girls and them becoming like a family and the coaches teaching a lot of life lessons. Winning is great, but it’s not everything.

“Of course, we want to win our last game of the season, but just going what I went through previously and what I have gone through now, it teaches you to not take anything for granted and to cherish every moment. That’s what this year has been.”

Arizona takes on Oklahoma in a best-of-three Super Regional starting Friday in Norman, starting at 11 a.m. Tucson time. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

Spigner is hitting seventh and hot-hitting second baseman Kristen Arriola is batting eighth, giving the Cats more depth to the lineup than they have had in recent postseasons. Arizona will need everybody hitting to solve Sooners ace Keilani Ricketts.

Perhaps Spigner has a few more good swings left — just like the one against Oregon State that helped clear her mind and give her renewed confidence.

“It was good to end like that,” she said. “It’s been a struggle. It’s been hard on me. Sometimes, life throws you a curveball.”

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