Three months removed from back surgery, Kenzie Fowler has further rehab to do before she can pitch for the Arizona Wildcats.

At the UA's first softball practice of the spring Tuesday, the senior said she was "where I'm supposed to be" while recovering from a microscopic lumbar discectomy in September.

She has begun throwing overhand, but is a few weeks away from pitching, UA coach Mike Candrea said. He said the Canyon del Oro High School alum could step in the circle in practice next month.

"I'm hoping we have her sometime in March" for games, Candrea said.

Fowler, who went 15-9 with a 2.85 ERA in 154 2/3 innings last year, said her recovery is going "really well" but didn't want to put a timeline on her return.

"I'm able to move so much better than I was before," she said. "I'm so glad I got it done.…

"It was something I needed for my personal well-being. That's a huge part of life - being healthy and being happy.

"I'm so much happier now."

Fowler and Candrea have not discussed a medical redshirt for this season.

"Whatever happens later on in the year, we'll see," Fowler said, "but my goal is to get back for this team and this group."

Junior pitcher Shelby Babcock "had a real solid fall," Candrea said, and freshman Nancy Bowling, penciled to be the No. 2 starter, "is very up-and-coming, with a lot of talent."

Estela Piñon, a Sunnyside High School graduate who transferred from Yavapai College, also will see some innings.

"I think the big question mark will be how much Kenzie can contribute this year," Candrea said. "I like the idea that we do have some different looks; we can split games up and try to keep hitters off balance."


Brigette Del Ponte, the UA's only other senior, spent Tuesday at a new position.

She moved from third base to shortstop to take the place of all-conference performer Shelby Pendley, who left the team last month.

"Brigette is a good athlete who has played this game at a high level," Candrea said.

"I really think the learning curve is going to be very short. In fact, I know it is."

Del Ponte practiced at shortstop last year while Pendley was recovering from a knee injury.

"I'm ready for it," Del Ponte said. "I'm going to embrace it. I'm going to do what it takes to make this team better."

Freshman Lauren Young will likely start at third base.

Inside pitch

• Candrea characterized first base as a two-person competition between Pacific transfer Kelsey Rodriguez and freshman Darcy Taylor.

• Junior Alex Lavine has the edge to start in right field, Candrea said.

• Bowling took ground balls at third base Tuesday and said she'd be happy to contribute there.

"If I can play, I'm happy," Bowling said.

• Candrea praised his coaching staff, which features new pitching coach Alicia Hollowell, new operations director Caitlin Lowe and volunteer Mark Blair.

"I want people who may look at things a little bit differently than I do," he said.