Kenzie Fowler, a freshman from CDO, showed off her right arm in her much-anticipated debut with Arizona.
Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea likes what he see from freshman pitcher Kenzie Fowler, and not just because of the stuff you can find in the box scores.
Fowler went 4-0 in her opening weekend of college competition, striking out nearly two batters an inning and reinforcing the notion that she will pick up the pitching torch passed down from Debby Day to Susie Parra to Nancy Evans to Jennie Finch to Alicia Hollowell to Taryne Mowatt.
“I thought she threw well,” Candrea said after Sunday’s victories over Nevada and Cal State Fullerton at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.
The numbers back that up — 41 strikeouts and only seven hits allowed in 22 1/3 innings. Fowler did walk 11 batters and allowed two home runs, one of which should have been caught, Candrea said, but left fielder Brittany Lastrapes knocked it over the fence.
It’s how the hard-throwing Fowler handled those bouts of wildness and adversity that encouraged Candrea.
For as much “stuff” as she has as a pitcher, Candrea also likes the stuff between Fowler’s ears.
“She’s very stable emotionally. Even-keeled demeanor, even when she was nervous early on,” Candrea said. “With the home runs, Kenzie kind of blows that stuff off. She is not too into herself and stays pretty even.”
Fowler won her first two starts, including a win over No. 15 Northwestern on Saturday. She picked up a win in relief of Sarah Akamine on Sunday, as Akamine tired against Nevada in her third start in three days. That was to be expected, Candrea said, as the senior is coming off offseason back surgery.
Fowler finished with 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief and then went the distance in the win over Cal State Fullerton.
Fowler, a two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year from Canyon del Oro High School, finished the tournament with a 1.25 ERA.
“She was having some problems with trying to be too careful at times,” Candrea said of the high walk total. “That will happen. I think it was a great lesson for her and she will learn from it.”
Beyond that, Candrea loved the “team” aspect of the 6-0 weekend.
Five players hit home runs, including grand slams Sunday from sophomore catcher Lini Koria and freshman third baseman Matte Haack. Nine players had at least three RBIs in the six games.
“Saw a little bit of everything, to tell you the truth,” Candrea said.
“Saw some really good performances and some performances where we had to battle back through adversity. We played from behind; we played from ahead. In the long run, it was a good thing for us.”
And it just built anticipation for the Wildcats’ home debut this weekend, when they will play ninth-ranked Missouri, which opened its season by taking two of three games from second-ranked Alabama.
You might remember Alabama. That is the team that ran Arizona out of last season’s Women’s College World Series with a 14-0 victory in five innings.
Arizona and Missouri will play a doubleheader Saturday at Hillenbrand Stadium, beginning at noon. The teams will play one game Sunday, beginning at noon.
UA is ranked fourth in one national poll and sixth in another.
UA RESULTS AT KAJIKAWA CLASSIC
Arizona 13, Western Michigan 9 (five innings)
Arizona 10, Purdue 0 (five innings)
Arizona 4, Northwestern 3
Arizona 6, North Dakota State 0
Arizona 10, Nevada 5
Arizona 8, Cal State Fullerton 1