Caitlin Lowe has settled into her new role as head coach of the Arizona softball team. She’s even moved into her new office.
There are moments, however, when Lowe thinks she should be back sitting on the other side of the desk. Like when former UA coach Mike Candrea, now an adviser in the athletic department, walks in.
Lowe demonstrated Friday on a Zoom call what goes on in her mind — jumping out of her chair and running halfway around her desk.
“It’s just funny and ironic when he comes in here, right? It’s like, ‘Wait a minute. Let me get out of here,’” Lowe said with a laugh.
In the four months since Lowe was named the Wildcats’ new head coach, she has hired assistant coach Lauren Lappin, added two transfers, planned a closed-to-the-public fall ball and recruited — a lot. She’s back on the road this weekend.
All that time away is paying off. Earlier this month, Lowe picked up a commitment from Ryan Maddox, a left-handed pitcher, for the Class of 2023. Maddox is from Fresno, California, and plays travel ball for OC Batbusters, the program that has been a training ground for many Wildcats.
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The Star talked to Lowe, 36, about what UA softball program looks like now, who is emerging as a leader and how the coaching transition has gone.
What does this team look like?
A: “I think you’re going to see a lot of new personalities and a lot of new energy. The thing I love right now is they’re playing for each other and they’re very selfless. Everybody’s trying to earn a starting position but at the same time, they’re elevating each other because they’re really each other’s biggest fan, too, not just a competitor. … The interesting part will be getting to see all those puzzle pieces together. Haven’t seen that yet. Very excited to see that because I think we’re built with speed top and bottom, a lot of power throughout the middle. And a lot of just hungry kids that are ready to compete so I’m excited for them.”
Who stands out?
A: “If you’re talking about athletic skills, there’s a lot of people standing out, but I think I was most interested to see who would emerge as our leadership because we are such a young team. Right now, I’m seeing a lot of people. Allie Skaggs at second base — she’s just emerged as this calm, confident leader. Carlie Scupin over at first base. I challenged Janelle (Meoño) to use her voice more, because obviously she’s taking a lot of reps in center field right now. Then our super seniors have been a steadying force in Hannah Martinez and Hanah Bowen. I think you saw Hanah Bowen kind of emerge last year as someone that doesn’t need to say anything but through her actions, she’s going to show you a lot. Behind the plate are Sharlize Palacios and Izzy Pacho; they provide almost the entire tone of how the practice is starting. ….
“I know that’s a lot of people, but I think game day is when you’re going to see — through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows — who’s actually going to emerge as the true leadership through both of those times. But right now, we’re just excited that we have a lot of people trying to take it on and nobody shying away from it.”
It’s interesting that the first two players you mentioned as leaders are sophomores. Does this surprise you?
A: “Not at all. Actually, I think the difference this year is, when you come in as a freshman, it’s really hard to use your voice, you’re a little intimidated, a little overwhelmed by what’s going on it’s a new process. They have made it a space and not just for themselves, they made it a space for this whole team to use their voice. I think that’s what’s so powerful about this group is (that) everybody feels like they’re contributing, whether it be physically or just being able to speak their mind. Even the freshmen I’ve seen come in and they’ve allowed them to have their little piece of ownership of this team. I credit the players entirely. I think right now this is a player’s team and they’ve kind of taken that upon themselves.
I saw Allie lead a little bit last year, which was crazy to me with how much senior leadership we had. She was the one when everybody was frustrated that was saying, ‘Guys. We love this game, we’re a great team, and we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves.’ She was one of those people from last year, which is crazy for her to come in as a freshman and be that way. She has a great way of putting things in perspective and staying calm in hyped-up situations. I’ve been proud of her for that and in carrying that into this year.”
What has been your craziest moment since taking over the helm?
A: “I’m a little nervous to say I haven’t had like the craziest moment. Knock on wood. … it’s been tough. Let me tell you that like none of this is easy as far as the transition goes. But I’m surrounded by great people. And I think that’s the biggest thing is your support system in this job matters so much and taking care of your people.”
Is there anything that has surprised you?
A: “I think the time commitment away from the field. I think Coach (Candrea) just took everything so easily as far as we never knew if he had a busy day, if he had a relaxed day, if he had something terrible going on, if he had a great day. He was always the same person. I was talking to him a couple days ago I’m like, ‘Man, I got an 8:30, a 9 o’clock, a 9:30, an 11 o’clock and a 1 o’clock — all before practice. Did you do this?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And I’m like, ‘Man, who even knew?’ That’s been the surprising thing — how much you have on your plate that has nothing to really do with softball. It’s management of staff and time commitments and travel and all that good stuff. I feel like now I have the flow of how my week goes. I was a little naive in the beginning to think, here’s my to-do list for the week because it changes every day you come in and there’s something new, right, there’s a new task. That’s what I had to learn right away is like, throw your what you think is going to happen today out the window and just do your best that day, which is a good life lesson, too.”
Lowe’s Wildcats have a familiar refrain this fall: “Champions adjust.” “It doesn’t matter what happens to us, we can roll with anything, but the way you respond that’s what matters the most — respond to your teammates, respond to the opponent,” Lowe said. “We’ve just always been about, no matter what happens to us, we’re going to get back up and we’re going to adjust.”
Lowe likes what she’s seeing from all her freshmen, whether it’s Madi Elish in the circle, Allie Enright in the outfield or Amber Toven in the infield. Paige Dimler hit her first ball on top of the nearby Gittings building last week.
As an assistant, Lowe was heavily involved in recruiting for years. The difference now is that she is the one offering scholarships. What does her pitch sound like? “I think it’s important to let them know what you see them bringing to the program. I think it’s important (for them) to know and for parents to know that their daughters are not only taken care of when they’re here … but I think it’s important for (players) to know that we’re setting them up for the future and we care about them as a person — not just a softball player, not just their stats. That we’re going to build the best version of their daughter that we possibly can. So that when we send her away from here, it’s as a better softball player — but most importantly as a better female.”