UA SOFTBALL

Arizona softball: Del Ponte's tough year near end

2013-05-03T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:32:01Z Arizona softball: Del Ponte's tough year near endPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Brigette Del Ponte hasn't been sleeping well.

The Arizona Wildcats' lone healthy senior is suffering through by far the worst season of her career, in maybe the worst year of the Mike Candrea era.

Time is running out to fix both.

"It's not something I'm used to," she said, "losing the way we are, and me playing the way I am."

The Arizona Wildcats' leader will play her final home series starting tonight at 6 against rival Arizona State. With the Wildcats (28-22, 5-13 Pac-12) on the NCAA tournament bubble with slim chances of hosting, Sunday figures to be the Peoria native's last game at Hillenbrand Stadium, ever.

Del Ponte considers the send-off appropriate - she grew up playing against half the players on No. 5 Arizona State (42-7, 13-5) and counts star pitcher Dallas Escobedo among her best friends.

"Winning the series against ASU would be awesome, especially winning on my Senior Day," she said. "And going out with a bang against Stanford and making regionals.

"We've gotta win some games now."

The last-place Wildcats' RPI of 32 won't get any worse after their final two series. But were they to get swept, they'd enter Selection Sunday losers of 11 straight and 14 of 15.

"In our next six games, we need some good victories," Candrea said.

Del Ponte's struggles have mirrored that of her team.

Her .229 batting average this year is about 100 points worse than her lowest UA single-season total. Her five homers are one-third of her worst total, and her 28 RBIs are half of her lowest mark.

"I think it's totally in my head," she said. "I've messed with my swing enough. I just have to go back to the basics and do what I do."

Del Ponte - who is set to leave the UA in the top 10 all-time in doubles, homers, RBIs and assists - said that learning a new position, shortstop, before this season "definitely" affected her hitting.

"Preseason, I was always working on playing short, and figuring out all the lingo and all the things I needed to do there, instead of working on my swing," she said. "But that's no excuse for me not hitting the ball now."

Candrea said the former third baseman "has helped us as much on defense as she hasn't on offense." He said she "just needs one line drive to fall in" to get on a roll.

Del Ponte said her time at the UA has taught her about softball, but also life outside it.

She was drafted by the Akron Racers of National Pro Fastpitch, and will play with them this summer, and then will look for a Division I assistant coaching job. The general studies major has talked about wanting to get married and have kids, too; her boyfriend of more than two years is former UA running back Keola Antolin.

"I love softball now - I love going to practice every day," she said. "But it definitely takes a toll on the body and the mind. …

"Thinking abut my future definitely takes my mind off of softball."

Her future can wait a few weeks - if the Wildcats can get hot.

"I'm just sad that it's happening right now," Candrea said of her struggles, "but we still have games to play."

Del Ponte struggles

A look at Brigette Del Ponte's UA numbers, by season:

Year HR RBI Avg. Slg.

2010 21 80 .322 .710

2011 17 59 .335 .735

2012 15 56 .328 .678

2013 5 28 .229 .382

The Series

• What: Arizona State at Arizona, three-game series

• Where: Hillenbrand Stadium

• Times: Today at 6 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.

• TV: All games on Pac-12 Arizona

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

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

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