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‘She can do it all’: Ivy Davis embracing utility role with Arizona softball

The sophomore has started in left and shortstop in 2019

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

When it comes to picking the most well-rounded athlete on the Arizona softball team, Ivy Davis might take the cake.

“She can play infield and outfield. In high school, she was a pitcher,” laughed UA ace Taylor McQuillin. “She can do it all. She’s one of those triple-threats.”

That versatility has been on display early and often in the 2019 season. Through 10 games, Davis has made seven starts in left field and two at shortstop, two radically different positions. The sophomore also regularly takes grounders at third, where she made a start as a freshman in 2018.

“A kid like that can expand your roster tremendously and that’s kind of how we’re using her right now,” said UA coach Mike Candrea.

It has not come as a shock to Davis, even though she mostly played the left side of the infield during her travel ball days and almost exclusively was a designated player as a freshman.

“I knew this year I was coming in as a utility, so I’m just kind of embracing wherever they put me, whatever role I have to take on every game,” she said.

Juggling multiple positions is not easy. Davis said it can be hard to be locked in for games because she has to wait and see the lineup card before she knows what part of the diamond she will be patrolling on that given day.

“It takes a certain mindset for someone to be able to do that,” Candrea said. “There’s a lot of kids that may have the abilities to do that, they just mentally can’t handle it. But I think Ivy kind of understands what her role is right now and what she may be called upon to do. As the season goes on, I’m sure that will narrow a little more but that’s what she gets for being a good athlete.”

Davis has had some hiccups in her all-encompassing role, to be sure. Against Alabama on Saturday, for instance, a towering fly ball rattled out of her glove as she charged into shallow left field, her first error of the season. She committed another at shortstop the very next game, contributing to the spotty defense that has partly been the cause of Arizona’s underwhelming 6-4 start.

But Candrea has been tinkering with the lineup all season as he searches for the right mix of offense and defense, so it says a lot about Davis that she has started in nine of 10 games.

“Well, I think she’s got potential,” Candrea said. “I mean, offensively, I was excited the other night when she hit a couple balls to right field, went to the opposite field, especially against slower pitching which usually gave her a lot of problems. So I think she’s maturing with the at-bats that she gets.”

Davis’ freshman season could be best characterized as feast or famine. She hit .207 in 58 at-bats, but four of her 12 hits were homers. So far in 2019, she is hitting .313 in 16 at-bats and ripped two doubles in the Hillenbrand Invitational this past weekend, already matching the number of two-baggers she had as a freshman.

“I think I am much more mature now. I have learned to slow the game down a lot more and embrace my role and whatever comes,” Davis said. “I’ve gotten a lot better at doing that. I’ve faced some of the best pitchers in the country so I’m not overwhelmed as much. It’s mostly mental for me.

“Same with my fielding, it’s just slowing myself down.”

Davis has not homered in 2019 yet, but if she can maintain a healthy batting average and recapture some of the power she boasted last year, it will lengthen an Arizona lineup that has been very top-heavy the last two years. Davis usually bats in the No. 7 or 8 spot.

“Ivy is very aggressive early in the count, late in the count. She is going to take her hacks,” McQuillin said. “As a pitcher, that’s one of the hardest things to pitch to. Sometimes people think that aggressive swingers earlier in the counts are easier outs, but I don’t think that’s necessarily always the case. Ivy does a good job of getting her cuts, not getting cheated with them, knowing that she’s going to take at least three hacks that are going to be worthwhile to her at-bat.”

Like Candrea, McQuillin thinks Davis, a former top-60 recruit, is oozing with potential. Her willingness to put the team first and play multiple positions is a big reason why.

“She’s going to develop into an amazing player, but she’s an amazing person and that’s not necessarily something you can say about people all the time.” McQuillin said. “But I think if you have a great personality and you’re a good person and you come out and you’re willing to play for a team as she does everyday, I think that’s going to be the greatest thing.”