Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea has a theme for his fall camp: Character counts.
“I really felt we have been lacking a really strong team chemistry in which the athletes enjoyed being around one another,” he said. “There was just way too much selfishness that has been plaguing us for a while.”
He’ll be repeating that phrase and working on the mindset — and all the usual fundamental stuff that comes with fall camp — while not wanting to forget what happened last spring.
Arizona was last seen losing 14-0 to Alabama at the Women’s College World Series in May — the worst loss in the history of the program.
“We use it as a reminder,” Candrea said. “You can always use experiences as a motivator if you’re smart enough to learn from it. The kids who were here last year surely have that in the back of their minds.”
Arizona has four freshmen who will be seeing the field for the first time when the Cats begin their fall exhibition schedule Sunday against Yavapai College. Yavapai is coached Stacy Iveson, who was a catcher and assistant coach at Arizona, and the head coach at Pima Community College.
The star of UA’s freshman class is pitcher Kenzie Fowler, a two-time Gatorade softball national player of the year at Canyon del Oro High School. Candrea is hoping to keep the hype under control.
“You just don’t want expectations that are unrealistic,” he said.
“She needs to grow and get better. We have a great tradition to fall back on, talking about the great players we have had here and the trials and tribulations they had to go through.”
Fowler and Ashley Ralston-Alvarez, a walk-on from Pima, are expected to pitch this fall. UA’s other pitcher, senior Sarah Akamine, is recovering from back surgery and is expected to be good to go when the real season begins in February, Candrea said.
Other newcomers are infielder Baillie Kirker (the career high school home run leader in California), outfielder Becca Tikey and infielder Matte Haack. As first reported on wildaboutazcats.com, freshman recruit Brigette DelPonte, an infielder rated the fourth-best recruit in the nation by ESPNU, will try to enroll for the spring after running into admission problems.
Sunday — vs. Yavapai, 2 p.m.
Oct. 9 — vs. Arizona Western, 4 p.m.
Oct. 10 — vs. New Mexico, 5:30 p.m.; vs. Central Arizona, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 — vs. Cypress, 3 p.m.; vs. Pima, 5 p.m.
Oct. 28 — vs. Pima, 4 p.m.