Arizona Wildcats softball pitching will take a turn toward the young and inexperienced in 2015 with seniors Estela Piñon, Shelly Babcock and Kenzie Fowler exhausting their eligibility.
The Wildcats, eliminated Saturday by Louisiana-Lafayette 7-1 in Game 2 of the NCAA Softball Super Regional, finish the season 44-16. Babcock (6-1) started in place of Piñon and gave up nine hits and seven earned runs with five walks and five strikeouts in six innings.
In the Raging Cajuns’ Game 1 and 2 sweep, Piñon and Babcock walked a combined 14 batters in 14 innings.
“We really felt like Babcock had an opportunity with her offspeed pitch to keep them off balance,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea told the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate. “We needed to try to hit the outside part of the plate and make them chase.”
Looking ahead to 2015, Arizona also loses senior catcher and designated player Kelsey Rodriguez, who led the Wildcats in batting with a .431 average entering the Super Regional.
A bulk of Arizona’s potent lineup that led the nation in home runs, scoring and slugging percentage returns, including first baseman Hallie Wilson (17 home runs) and freshman outfielder Katiyana Mauga, who hit her 20th home run of the season in the loss to the Raging Cajuns on Saturday.
A blessed day in Lafayette, loved seeing my Wildcat family. Coach Candrea holds a special place in my… http://t.co/5rGL9Cm44k
Mo Mercado, a freshman infielder also returning, led the Wildcats in Pac-12 play with a .400 batting average.
The emphasis in development for Candrea, who will coach in his 30th season at Arizona in 2015, will be on pitching with Piñon, Babcock and Fowler gone.
Sophomore Nancy Bowling, who in her only inning Saturday retired the side against Louisiana-Lafayette in the seventh, is the most experienced returner. She finished 7-0 with a 2.80 ERA in 55 innings.
Michelle Floyd, a freshman, was 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 22 innings.
Candrea signed Patricia Parks of Chino Hills (Calif.) High School last fall. She finished 17-4 with a 1.62 ERA with 129 strikeouts and 39 walks in 116 1/3 innings.
Parks overcame a personal problem late in the season to be a dominant pitcher. She quit her high school team in March for two weeks for personal reasons before returning.