UA's Brigette Del Ponte was moved from third base to shortstop after all-conference shortstop Shelby Pendley transferred to Oklahoma.


In her quest to master shortstop before the season starts this week, Brigette Del Ponte has taken extra ground balls and studied the subtleties of the position known as the quarterback of the infield.

The senior, who finds baseball boring, even watched a series of defensive highlights on YouTube.

It was at the insistence of her coach, Yankees nut Mike Candrea.

"Derek Jeter," she said with a smile. "Of course it was."

As part of the Arizona Wildcats' lead up to Friday's opener against Northwestern at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Del Ponte is doing everything she can to fill a void left when all-conference shortstop Shelby Pendley transferred to Oklahoma.

"I'm OK," Del Ponte said. "I'm going to get the job done."

Here's what she's been working on for Cats, who are ranked 13th in the USA Today/NFCA poll and 14th in the Softball Collegiate poll:

• Reacting differently. Over three seasons, Del Ponte started 178 of the UA's 182 games at the hot corner.

"For me, I'm not a thinker," she said. "I'm more reaction. I don't think. At third, I took a step left or I took a step right. At short, I'm going five feet and then getting down."

Candrea, in his 28th UA season, said she needs to work on "a little bit of everything," but he's happy with Del Ponte's development.

"When you're used to playing close to home plate and you're moved back, you have a little more time, you have a little more range, so you get to more balls," said Candrea, who has eight NCAA titles. "You have to be able to think a little bit because you have to pick hops."

• Footwork. The Peoria native admits her footwork "needs improvement." Earlier this week, Candrea stopped a drill to explain to Del Ponte to open her shoulders more on a backhand play.

"I have to work on getting my glove low, and getting my butt low and going through the ball instead of waiting for it," she said.

Del Ponte can't assume she has the time to make a play.

"At short, it takes three or four hops," she said. "At third, it'd take one, maybe two on occasion. It's completely different at third, a completely different position."

• Directing traffic. On popups, Del Ponte will be asked to take charge of who calls, and catches, the ball.

"I love that - it's adrenaline," she said. "I'm going to be aggressive with any ball I can get. I'm going to call it. We've been working on it in practice."

• Turning two. Del Ponte said the double-play ball - typically, one of the most difficult plays for those new to the position - might be the easiest part of her new job.

"It's probably my favorite ball to do," she said. "I have a good arm."

Candrea said she "looks like she's enjoying the game," a cool confidence that will benefit his young team.

"I'm very, very pleased," he said. "She's a kid who loves to compete and has a good knowledge of the game."

Up next

• What: Season opener: Kajikawa Classic

• Where: Tempe

• When: Friday

• UA vs. N'western: 12:30 p.m.

• UA vs. Bradley: 5:30 p.m.