SOFTBALL

Arizona 8, San Diego State 0, 5 innings: Cats play for Candrea

Thoughts on missing coach, but he's OK, will be back this week
2012-03-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:39:09Z Arizona 8, San Diego State 0, 5 innings: Cats play for CandreaPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 28, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Mike Candrea spent Tuesday night at home, trying to find a way to watch his Arizona Wildcats beat San Diego State 8-0 in five innings on the Internet.

He didn't see the oversized "Get Well Soon" card fans signed when they walked through Hillenbrand Stadium's navy wrought iron gate, or smirk when the "Pocket Litter" game offered a Nike bag to the first fan to produce a hospital bracelet.

(It went instead to a supporter with proof of his pacemaker installation last month.)

Candrea - the second-winningest softball coach of all time - rested at his home after being released from University of Arizona Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon, two days after suffering chest pains.

The pains, which the 56-year-old coach first experienced during Sunday's loss at Arizona State, were likely caused by stress.

"The most important man to us isn't here - who we always lean on and turn to when we needed answers," said senior Lini Koria, who hit a solo homer Tuesday.

"We kinda just had to grow up a little bit."

Candrea could return either today, for a 3 p.m. game against the 18-18 Aztecs, or for Thursday's practice. The coach - who didn't immediately return a voicemail message or text message - hadn't decided on his return date as of the end of Tuesday's game.

The No. 17-ranked Wildcats (20-8) sent a bouquet of peach-colored hibiscus flowers to Candrea's room and giggled when operations director Alicia Hollowell sent a photo of him wearing his favorite red UA hat in his hospital bed.

But none had heard from him until Tuesday, when Candrea texted his players and told them to "play for the moment."

"They were sad, because he's not with us," assistant coach Larry Ray said. "But he made them feel really good."

Pitcher Shelby Babcock called the text "very comforting."

The sophomore allowed six hits - but most importantly, no walks - in five innings Tuesday.

The Wildcats scored their first run on a Kristen Arriola double and a Chelsea Goodacre single to lead off the second inning. After Koria was plunked and Nicole Bryan popped out, Hallie Wilson singled home pinch-runner Sam Davis for a 2-0 lead.

Two batters later, Brigette Del Ponte walloped a three-run homer between the center field fence and the batter's eye.

In the fourth, with the bases empty, Koria cleared the batter's eye to take a 6-0 lead.

"Just trying to get my groove back," said Koria, who was demoted to eighth in the batting order three games ago.

With a full count and two outs later in the inning, Del Ponte golfed a home run the opposite way, over the right field wall, for her second of the game and seventh of the season.

Babcock struck out only one but needed only 64 pitches to dispatch the aggressive Aztecs by the mercy rule.

The Wildcats had blown leads in each of their three losses to Arizona State last weekend.

"It's relieving to be up with our runs and keep those runs," Del Ponte said, "and shutting another team out."

That closed out a rare easy win, a nicety after two days Del Ponte called "stressful" because of Candrea's health and a sweep by their rivals.

"He's got to be extremely proud," Ray said. "I told the girls, 'Let's play one for him.'"

On StarNet: See more of Kelly Presnell's photos from the Arizona-SDSU game at azstarnet.com/gallery

The polls

The ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll is voted upon by 15 coaches and five media members, including the Star's Patrick Finley. Here's a look at the poll and how Finley voted (first-place votes in parentheses):

Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll

1. Cal (18)

2. Alabama (2)

3. Washington

4. Florida

5. Arizona State

6. Texas

7. Oklahoma

8. Louisiana-Lafayette

9. Tennessee

10. Georgia

11. Louisville

12. Missouri

13. Stanford

14. UCLA

15. Texas A&M

16. Oregon

17. Arizona

18. Hawaii

19. Michigan

20. Baylor

21. South Florida

22. Florida State

23. LSU

24. Auburn

25. Syracuse

Finley's poll

1. Cal

2. Alabama

3. Washington

4. Florida

5. Arizona State

6. Texas

7. Lousiana-Lafayette

8. Oklahoma

9. Georgia

10. Tennessee

11. Louisville

12. Missouri

13. Stanford

14. UCLA

15. Texas A&M

16. Arizona

17. Oregon

18. Hawaii

19. Michigan

20. Baylor

21. South Florida

22. Florida State

23. LSU

24. Syracuse

25. Auburn

Today

• What: San Diego State at Arizona

• Where: Hillenbrand Stadium

• When: 3 p.m.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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