ARIZONA SOFTBALL

Ace looks ahead, not leaps ahead

2011-01-20T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:20:46Z Ace looks ahead, not leaps aheadPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 20, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Kenzie Fowler's toe might have prompted the Arizona Wildcats to rebuild her pitching delivery, but her arm demanded it.

The sophomore right-hander knew she would tweak her motion during the off-season after being called for "leaping" - not dragging her toe - during the Women's College World Series last season.

Her arm was the real concern, of course.

The Canyon del Oro High School graduate had numbness in her right hand and tightness in her forearm, the results of a pinched nerve.

The condition that started late in the regular season was so serious that Fowler did not throw over the summer, sticking to weights and summer school classes.

After looking at video and meeting with doctors and pitching coach Teresa Wilson, Fowler decided to scrap the motion she had used for the last 10 years.

"My pitching style has kind of changed. A lot," she said.

She tinkered with a new delivery for two full months before feeling comfortable and will spend the next three weeks perfecting it. The UA opens Feb. 10 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.

"They said the way I did pitch was a little bit more stressful on my arm and neck and everything that happened," Fowler said of meetings with Wilson and doctors. "I sat down with Coach Wilson and we said, 'What would be the most efficient way for me to deliver and still be able to be dominant?'"

In her old delivery, Fowler swung her right hand high behind her before striding toward home plate.

"Now I'm more toward the ground and going forward," she said.

The Wildcats ace said she has "a lot more movement" on the ball, not necessarily more speed, and coyly mentioned that she has added "a couple new pitches."

Fowler, who had life-saving thoracic outlet syndrome surgery on her pitching arm in June 2007, strengthened her core in the weight room, too.

"Right now, she's 100 percent to go," UA head coach Mike Candrea said. "It's just a matter of keeping an eye on it. I'm hoping some of these changes will help with her endurance."

Fowler can be more efficient by not striking out every batter, he said.

He cited ex-UA All-American Jennie Finch, who as a freshman "was blowing the ball by people," but "when she got older, she got smarter."

Fewer pitches will benefit Fowler's arm, long term.

Freshman Shelby Babcock figures to pitch more than last year's No. 2 starter, Sarah Akamine, and reduce Fowler's workload.

Fowler, 38-9 with a 1.53 ERA in 2010, knows the new delivery feels right. Every once in a while, she'll throw a pitch using her old motion.

It feels strange.

"So I think that's a good thing," she said, "when the way you're pitching now feels that comfortable.

"But it's so weird - I pitched that way for 10 years. It's so weird that you can pick up something so fast, and it just feels natural like that."

Up next

• What: Arizona at Kajikawa Classic

• Where: Tempe

• When: Feb. 10-13

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