Nothing But The Notes

Nothing but the Notes: Mike Candrea’s Pitching Can Be Difference in Ending Painful WCWS Drought

It’s this simple: When a softball team has two dominating pitchers, that team can go far, like Super Regionals far, even Women’s College World Series far. A potent lineup (which Arizona has) is nice but a team is much more effective when it does not have to always attempt to outscore the other team.

That has been the case for Arizona in recent years with the Wildcats void of a trip to the WCWS since 2010, the longest drought by far in Mike Candrea’s 34-year career.

Candrea can count on ace Taylor McQuillin (15-5, 1.28 ERA with 157 strikeouts and 27 walks in 125 1/3 innings) and Alyssa Denham (10-2, 1.87 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 24 walks in 63 2/3 innings) each weekend.

McQuillin lost 12 games last year and had 82 walks in 242 innings. She had an ERA of 1.68. Arizona had a team ERA of 1.94 last year. It is at 1.46 this year.

Taylor McQuillin has made a drastic improvement with her control this season (Arizona Athletics photo)

Candrea also can be confident throwing Hanah Bowen and Gina Snyder, who are a combined 7-0 with only nine earned runs allowed in 50 innings (1.26 ERA) with 52 strikeouts and 13 walks.

Marissa Schuld is also 2-0 with a 0.48 ERA with eight strikeouts and only one walk in 14 2/3 innings.

Pitching coach Taryne Mowatt, who pitched the Wildcats to WCWS titles in 2006 and 2007, is lining herself with a head coaching job somewhere with the way she has handled her staff.

Arizona is seventh in the nation with a team ERA of 1.57 and also seventh in the country in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.22 strikeouts for every walk).

That kind of dominance matched with a lineup that leads the nation in home runs with 1.92 per game is the reason why Arizona has won 17 straight games and is ranked No. 8 with a 35-7 record overall and 12-0 in the Pac-12. The winning streak record at Arizona is 47 games stretched between the 1996 and 1997 seasons.

Arizona won 26 straight games only two years ago and looked primed for a return to the WCWS behind ace Danielle O’Toole but Baylor came to Tucson and stole the Super Regional crown from the Wildcats, a bitter 6-5 loss in the last game that still gnaws at Candrea.

Arizona has its sights on another deep postseason run and Candrea will be bent on ending this eight-year absence from competing in Oklahoma City after the Wildcats went there 20 straight years with Candrea as coach (when he was not coaching the U.S. Olympic team).

Adia Barnes Going After 5-Star Guard

Arizona is one of 15 finalists to land a commitment from highly touted Class of 2020 5-foot-10 point guard Leilani Kapinus from Madison (Wis.). Kapinus is rated No. 9 (5-star status) in the recent espnW rankings for her class.

ESPN’s assessment of Kapinus: Athletic lead-guard with a scorer’s mentality in the back court; strong, physical off the dribble, manufactures shots, finds the rim in transition; quick off the bounce with big-guard game, body control in traffic, range to the arc; among the elite guards in the class of 2020.

If Kapinus chooses Arizona — national champion Baylor and perennial power Louisville are other finalists — she would be a freshman in 2020-21 when Aari McDonald is a senior. In the men’s game, that would be a deterrent for a five-star talent but the women’s game is more about development with players lasting the four years in college.

Kapinus can be enticed to play alongside and practice every day against a potential first-team All-American and legitimate WNBA draft choice in McDonald by the time McDonald is wrapping up her Arizona career. What better way to develop in college than that?

Arizona ADs Pride of Albion (Mich.) College

Finally got the chance to meet Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke in person at Saturday’s Spring Game at Arizona Stadium. Thoroughly impressed with him as a people-person. He approached a group of media sitting in the stands (when he didn’t have to) and sat with us for a few minutes.

I told him I was amazed that he is one of three Arizona athletic directors who hails from Albion (Mich.) College. The others are J.F. “Pop” McKale and Cedric Dempsey. What are the odds of that? It’s not like they attended a much larger school like Michigan. Even then, it would be amazing.

The enrollment these days at Albion, a private school, is only about 1,400.

Dave Heeke (photo courtesy GoAZCats.com)

Longtime NFL assistant coach Fritz Shurmur, who coached in the league for 25 years including with the Arizona Cardinals as defensive coordinator from 1991-93, is another Albion alum.

McKale, Dempsey and Heeke each played baseball at Albion. Even more remarkable: McKale and Heeke both hail from Lansing, Mich.

Lansing has produced the likes of Magic Johnson, Burt Reynolds and John Smoltz.

A picture of the Albion (Mich.) baseball team in 1908. J.F. “Pop” McKale is on the top row, second from the left (Albion College photo)

McKale was a two-time all-state athlete in football and baseball at Albion. He helped the football team win a league championship in 1908 and served as the team’s captain in 1908 and 1909. He was a four-year varsity letter winner in both baseball and football.

Dempsey earned nine letters in three different sports at Albion: football, basketball and baseball. He was selected as an all-league performer in baseball three consecutive years (1952-1954). While playing basketball, he earned all-league honors in 1953 and 1954, and was named the Most Valuable Player his senior year. He established a single game scoring record by making 38 points in a game against Hope.

Cedric Dempsey arrived at Arizona 49 years after fellow Albion (Mich.) alum J.F. “Pop” McKale started at Arizona in 1914.

From 1959 to 1962, Dempsey served as Albion’s head basketball and cross country coach. The following year he was the dean of men at Albion.

Heeke, 55, earned a bachelor’s degree from Albion College in 1985 and a master’s degree from Ohio State in 1987. At Albion, he was a co-captain of the baseball team and a member of the club hockey team.

Gabe York Back in Europe

AEK Athens announced on Friday the addition of former Arizona shooting guard Gabe York, with him signing a contract for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.

This season, York played for the Lakeland Magic (Orlando’s affiliate) in the G-League and averaged 16.1 points and 3.7 assists in 41 games. His 3-point shooting percentage at Arizona was 40.2 percent. He shot 36.9 percent from that range with Lakeland.

He also competed in the Basketball Champions League last season, as a member of Bayreuth (Germany), and averaged 16.9 points and 2.5 assists in 18 games.

Since his senior season at Arizona in 2015-16, York has played in Italy and Germany and will now play in Greece. He also has G-League stints with Erie (Pa.) and Lakeland.

Rincon, Pima Baseball Standout Benites Dies

Pat Benites, who played baseball at Rincon, Pima College and Emporia State in Kansas before coaching at Desert View and Pueblo, passed away two weeks ago at the age of 61. He was a 1976 Rincon graduate.

He earned First-Team All-City honors by The Arizona Daily Star his junior and senior years at Rincon. After his baseball career concluded at Emporia State, he transferred to Arizona where he graduated with both a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in education.

Pat Benites was once a standout outfielder at Rincon and Pima College

Storybook life: Benites married his high school sweetheart, Tamia Boule in 1982. They started dating when she was 13 and he was 14. They were together a total of 46 years and married for 36. They were each other’s first and only love. They had two children together, Brad and Polly and four grandchildren, Cali, Katelyn, Jacob and Ollie.

After teaching and coaching football and baseball seven years at Desert View and Pueblo, he switched careers and became a firefighter with the Tucson Fire Department, retiring in 2007.

His funeral was held at Pantano Christian Church on Friday. In lieu of flowers, his family is requesting that donations be made to Axes in Arms/Embers of Hope, 300 S. Fire Central Place, Tucson AZ 85701.


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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.


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