The scorching Arizona softball team was dealt devastating news this week, when senior center fielder Alex Lavine suffered a torn ACL against Ball State. She will miss the rest of the season.
Lavine had started 19 games for the Wildcats, who are off to a 20-1 start, before injuring her knee chasing down a fly ball during the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon.
The Wildcats will take on Michigan and Wisconsin today in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif.
“This is very heartbreaking,” Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea said Thursday. “You have a kid who brings so much passion, so much work ethic, so much drive – all the things you want in a player – and to see her go down like that her senior year is pretty difficult.”
Particularly because Lavine was off to a sensational start, less than two years after switching from the right side of the plate to the left as a hitter. After batting .248 as a freshman while primarily playing shortstop, which culminated in an all-Pac-12 honorable mention selection, she slipped to .125 as a sophomore in just 24 at-bats, primarily as a reserve outfielder. During her junior season, Lavine batted .297, good for fifth on the team, but she simply took off this year, opening the year with 17 hits in 37 at-bats, a .459 average.
Candrea said Courtney Rodriguez would take over Lavine’s place in the lineup and on the field.
“Her teammates will do nothing less than to rally around her,” Candrea said. “They don’t have much choice. Good teams have to find ways to move forward. That’s what we need to do. I don’t think she’d want it any other way.”
Candrea expects Lavine to continue to offer her key leadership skills from the dugout and said that the plan was to petition the NCAA for a fifth year of eligibility for the senior, whose teammates lauded her effort and passion during the offseason months.
“She has worked her tail off to become a good player at this level,” Candrea said. “Every kid on this team knows what Alex meant to this team. She’s the blue-collared worker. She’s the kid who comes out and does all the right things.”
Candrea, who has lost myriad players during his decades as coach, appears to be taking this one pretty hard. Lavine, after all, has that extra gear that every coach desires.
“It broke my heart,” Candrea said. “It really did. It’s the last thing you ever want to see happen. These kids are all an extension of my family, and it hurts the entire family.”