Hours after being selected to their 27th consecutive NCAA tournament, the Arizona Wildcats spent Monday preparing to enter the postseason without their best pitcher.

Junior Shelby Babcock, the team's No. 1 starter, went to the hospital early Monday after feeling ill since Friday, one day after a start at Stanford. She was released by midday.

Candrea sounded more optimistic about her chances to play after speaking with her Monday afternoon.

He said Babcock was eating more and eager to play Friday, when the Wildcats start the College Station, Texas, regional at 12:30 p.m. against Baylor.

Candrea declined to specify the nature of the illness, citing privacy law. He said the team was awaiting results of another test, which likely will come today.

"She's feeling a lot better," Candrea said late Monday.

Babcock posted a 3.68 ERA in a team-high 169 1/3 innings this season.

Were she unable to pitch this week, the Wildcats would be placed in a situation unlike any in their history: having two available pitchers with a combined zero innings of NCAA tournament experience.

Freshman Nancy Bowling has a 4.25 ERA in 82 1/3 innings this season, and allowed five earned runs in 10 2/3 innings over starts Friday and Saturday at Stanford.

"I've been very pleased," Candrea said. "She's gotten over the hump a little bit and has got more confidence in herself."

Junior college transfer Estela Piñon won two games in relief last week, causing the coach to say the Sunnyside High School alum "has really embraced" the bullpen role. She has a 3.67 ERA in 116 1/3 innings this year.

"It's not the perfect place you want to be in, but, on the other hand, sometimes they don't know any different," Candrea said of his inexperienced pitchers. "It can be a positive, too. Sometimes you can overthink the game when you've been there too many times."

The Wildcats would likely split the games, with Bowling starting and Piñon relieving. In muggy daytime weather, though, having a third pitcher - much less the No. 1 starter - would be ideal.

"It would be nice to have 'Babs' healthy, because it does give us the additional depth that you need," Candrea said. "But it's a three-game series. You have to go out and do what you need to do."

The Wildcats have been down one pitcher all season, after senior Kenzie Fowler redshirted following back surgery.

"Whatever could happen this year has happened," Candrea said. "You just move forward. It's all you can do.

"You can't sit around and feel sorry for yourself. You have to take what you have and go out and play."

The UA has been playing its best softball of the year, winning two of three against both Arizona State and at Stanford to finish the regular season.

"Our hitting and pitching is coming together as one," third baseman Lauren Young said.

The team hopes to know Babcock's status today or, at the latest, before it flies to Texas on Wednesday afternoon.

"I felt like we were getting close to being fully loaded again, and feeling good," Candrea said. "To have something like this happen at this time is tough.

"The one thing where this team has grown is, their ability to be resilient and fight back."

Inside pitch

• Candrea said Monday the Wildcats were the third-highest team in their own pod, behind No. 16 overall seed Texas A&M and Baylor.

Sunday night, both the Bears and Wildcats assumed they were the second-best team in College Station. As the No. 3 seed, the Wildcats will be the road team when they play Baylor. Candrea said the seed "doesn't matter."

• UA players were already concerned about the weekend weather, which could reach 90 degrees. The humidity in College Station on Monday was 67 percent.

"We're also ready for the heat in Texas - maybe a little unready - but we're excited," left fielder Hallie Wilson said.

Designated player/infielder Mandie Perez smiled. When she was 16, she played a June tournament in College Station, and was stunned to see players fainting and others taken to tents to cool off.

"And that was normal," she said.

• The UA's final regular season RPI, announced Monday, was 29 - the same as before it won two of three at Stanford. Texas A&M finished at 16, with Baylor No. 26.

College Station regional

All games on ESPN2


• Game 1: Arizona vs. Baylor, 12:30 p.m.

• Game 2: Texas A&M vs. Penn, 3 p.m.


• Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, noon

• Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 2:30 p.m.

• Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3, 5 p.m.


• Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5, 12:30 p.m. (Game 7 to follow, if necessary at 3 p.m.)

Up next

• Who: Arizona (32-24) vs. Baylor (39-15), NCAA tournament

• When: 12:30 p.m. Friday

• Where: College Station, Texas


Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4658. On Twitter @PatrickFinley