UA athletic director Greg Byrne and his staff have raised in excess of $1.5 million to begin renovations of Hillenbrand Stadium, and the first change will be a modern clubhouse and locker facilities.
I suspect he will need at least $4 million to someday put in shade canopies and make the fan experience better. Somehow, Oregon won the Pac-12 and rose to No. 1 in college softball this year with perhaps the worst facility in the league, or close.
The Ducks play in a once-deserted baseball stadium, Howe Field, that is 78 years old and has no modern toilet facilities. The lights are so bad that the Ducks can’t play night games unless they rent portable lights. And did I mention the seemingly endless drizzle in an Oregon spring?
But the Ducks won because they have a star pitcher, Cheridan Hawkins, who is a game-changer.
While Arizona awaits its upgrades at Hillenbrand, coach Mike Candrea will be keeping an eye on his much-coveted game-changer, junior lefty Taylor McQuillen of Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School, the nation’s No. 1-ranked softball team. McQuillen committed to play for Candrea a year ago; she was 21-0 to start the season with 231 strikeouts in 126 innings. She is a MaxPreps.com Player of the Year possibility.
I watched a video of McQuillen. She, like Oregon’s Hawkins, pitches with force and an attitude. Alas, she won’t be eligible to pitch her first Arizona game until February 2016.