Shelby Pendley, the Arizona Wildcats shortstop who was one of the nation's best players as a freshman last year, has left the team.

"It was a personal choice; I wanted something different," Pendley told the Star on Friday night. "I just wasn't happy. I loved my teammates, loved all of them. Got along with them great. Sometimes in life you have to make a decision that's best for you."

The decision is a blow to the Wildcats' national championship hopes. As the UA's only all-Pac-12 first-teamer last season, the Rio Rancho, N.M., native hit .331 with 19 homers and 55 RBIs. She led the team with a .703 slugging percentage and started every game at shortstop.

Pendley played in the fall exhibition season but made the decision to leave weeks ago. The UA announced it Friday.

UA coach Mike Candrea called the decision "a little bit surprising" when she told him.

"Nothing much catches you off-guard anymore," he said. "It's a crazy, crazy world. We wish her the best."

Pendley finished the fall semester at the UA before returning home. Candrea released her from her scholarship; she cannot transfer to a Pac-12 school.

Pendley is eligible to play this spring anywhere else and said she wants to.

"I haven't had kids come and go a lot of years," Candrea said. "It seems like this is the generation that kinda, ya know … it's a strange breed. It's just, I don't know."

Candrea said third baseman Brigette Del Ponte can play shortstop, as can a few of the team's newcomers, including freshman Lauren Young.

The UA season begins Feb. 8.