UA SOFTBALL

Arizona softball 2013 season opener: New-look UA 'ready to compete'

Young Cats looking for winning combo after missing WCWS
2013-02-08T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:33:28Z Arizona softball 2013 season opener: New-look UA 'ready to compete'Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats will have a new starter everywhere but pitcher when they take the field for the first time today.

You can look it up.

"Oh my gosh," said Hallie Wilson, who has moved from center field to first base after playing exactly one game there last year. "Wow."

"That's really weird," Chelsea Goodacre, today's designated player, said. "I never thought about that."

Four of the team's eight position players at today's Kajikawa Classic in Tempe are new to the UA: University of Pacific transfer Kelsey Rodriguez (catcher) and freshmen Mandie Perez (second base), Lauren Young (third base) and Courtney Rodriguez (right field).

Another four are veteran playing new spots.

Wilson is breaking in a first baseman's glove the Wildcats bought her two weeks ago. Alex Lavine, a reserve last year, will play her first-ever inning of collegiate center field, in Wilson's place, today.

Chelsea Suitos, who appeared in 11 games in left field last year before moving to right field for 37, returns to left.

And, for the first time, Brigette Del Ponte moves from third base to replace first-team All-Pac-12 shortstop Shelby Pendley, who transferred to Oklahoma last month.

"I don't think we've ever been this young, and this new," UA coach Mike Candrea said.

Today's starting position players have totaled 12 major-college games at their current spots. The roster includes nine newcomers and seven returners.

"I think this weekend will kinda tell us what our challenges are," said Candrea, entering his 28th season at the UA. "Right now you try to put the best combination out there. Obviously, you'd like to have experience at every position, but that never really occurs.

"Right now I think we're going to try to put the best nine that we feel gives us the best opportunity.

"That may change over the year. Who knows? But this is kinda the beginning of it."

The Wildcats lost 60 percent of their RBIs and runs scored from last season's team that fell, for the second straight year, in the NCAA Super Regionals.

"I think that's going to be kinda a good thing for us - it's a change," said Goodacre, who will move back to catcher starting next week, once her sore throwing elbow feels better. "This year it feels totally different from last year, and in a better way.

"Everyone's on the same page and wants to win."

The Wildcats, ranked No. 14 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25, open against Northwestern and Bradley today without two of their four pitchers.

Highly regarded freshman Nancy Bowling is recovering from a concussion suffered Saturday when she was hit by a line drive in practice, and senior Kenzie Fowler is mending from offseason back surgery. The UA, then, will have to rely on junior Shelby Babcock and newcomer Estela Piñon, a Sunnyside High School graduate by way of Yavapai College.

The Wildcats' flexibility, Candrea said, can be a bonus.

Their youth, though, is something new.

"It does present a challenge we haven't gone through in a long time," he said.

"So you embrace it. The one thing I like about this team is that they've worked very hard. I think they'll be highly engaged and ready to compete."

New blood

Every starting position player except pitcher will be different today when the Arizona Wildcats open the softball season at the Kajikawa Classic.

Here's a look at the UA's new lineup compared to the most common starter by position last year:

Position Last season This Season Why

C Lini Koria Kelsey Rodriguez Koria graduated

1B Jessica Spigner Hallie Wilson Spigner graduated

2B Kristen Arriola Mandie Perez Arriola graduated

SS Shelby Pendley Brigette Del Ponte Pendley transferred

3B Brigette Del Ponte Lauren Young Del Ponte moved positions

LF Karissa Buchanan Chelsea Suitos Buchanan graduated

CF Hallie Wilson Alex Lavine Wilson moved positions

RF Chelsea Suitos Courtney Rodriguez Suitos moved positions

This weekend

• What: Kajikawa Classic in Tempe

Arizona's schedule

• Today: vs. Northwestern, 12:30 p.m.; vs. Bradley, 5:30 p.m.

• Saturday: vs. Cal Poly, 9 a.m.; vs. San Diego State, 2 p.m.

• Sunday: vs. Florida, 8:30 a.m.

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