Arizona softball: Cats concerned about homers

2013-04-12T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:32:18Z Arizona softball: Cats concerned about homersPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A familiar nemesis stung the Arizona Wildcats again Tuesday.

Four outs away from a win at New Mexico State, pitcher Estela Piñon gave up a fly ball that carried and carried and landed on the other side of the Aggies' fence.

NMSU hung onto the one-run lead to win Game 1 of a doubleheader the UA would eventually, disappointingly, split.

With one month left in the regular season, entering a series at No. 6 Oregon (33-6, 10-2) that starts tonight, the UA has allowed 47 homers, eight more than it did all of last year.

"That's been the tale," UA coach Mike Candrea said. "When things happen, they happen in buckets."

The No. 22 Wildcats (27-14, 4-5) have hit four fewer homers than their opponents this season, which Candrea called "a first."

Consider:

• In both 2011 and 2012, the UA hit more than twice as many homers as their opponents.

• In each of the three years before that, the Wildcats hit more than three times as many.

• This season marks only the third time since 2000 the UA has not hit at least twice as many as their foes.

"It's come back to bite us numerous times," Candrea said.

The coach has broken down the UA's pitching performance into 10-, 20- and 30-game chunks and has found the figures to be similar.

The UA allowed four more than their opponents over the last 10 games, three more over 20 and two fewer than their foes over 30.

"What I've noticed is, we can sometimes get two strikes, but we don't have the knockout punch," he said. "It's kinda playing with fire.

"It's a crazy thing right now."

The UA's three pitchers - junior Shelby Babcock, freshman Nancy Bowling and junior college transfer Piñon - have had varying degrees of success against the gopher ball.

Babcock gives up one every 7 2/3 innings, and Piñon and Bowling allow one about every 4 2/3 and 5 1/3 innings, respectively.

"In my college career, I've never given up so many home runs," Piñon, a Sunnyside High School grad who played two years at Yavapai College, said. "I've faced good hitters, and we've gone to good tournaments.

"This is new to me. I need to learn to keep the ball lower."

When the UA's pitchers miss, Candrea said, they leave it over the plate and high.

"When you're pitching to be careful, sometimes that doesn't work," he said. "More than anything, our misses are not good misses, and we pay a price."

Bowling said there are "great hitters up and down the lineup" in college.

"In high school it'll be the 3-4-5 hitters," she said. "Here, every single batter is really good. I have to learn where I need to miss and what part of the lineup I'm in."

The game has changed, too, Candrea said.

The coach wondered if the sport should look at the performance of the bats or increase the size of fields to the international standard of 220 feet. Young hitters are also getting better instruction and can watch more film than ever before, he said, leading to increased performance.

Still, that doesn't account for the discrepancy between what the UA is hitting, and what it's giving up.

That starts with inconsistent pitching.

"That's the one thing we're lacking: someone you can kinda depend on, when you know you're going to get 'X' performance," he said.

"Right now, we're getting 'X,' 'Y' and 'Z.'"

And, it seems, HR.

Homer Drought

The Wildcats have hit fewer home runs than their opponents this season after years of more than doubling their foes' output:

Year HRs hit HRs allowed UA's percent of total

2013 43 47 47.7

2012 80 39 67.2

2011 78 34 69.6

2010 107 35 75.4

2009 134 35 79.3

2008 94 28 77.0

2007 57 39 59.4

2006 62 28 68.9

2005 33 21 61.1

2004 66 17 79.5

2003 70 25 73.7

2002 93 26 78.2

2001 99 12 89.2

2000 66 22 75.0

The series

• Who: Arizona at Oregon

• Tonight: 5 p.m.

• Saturday: 2 p.m.

• Sunday: noon (Pac-12 Arizona)

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