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Arizona softball’s pitching staff learning to expect the unexpected

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Expect the unexpected is pretty much the mantra Arizona softball’s pitching staff is operating by this season.

Just about the only thing you can predict is that ace Taylor McQuillin is going to start on Fridays. The rest of the week, the Wildcats have been playing it by ear as they seek out the best possible matchups for their bevy of arms.

For instance, the Wildcats had five games last week and started four different pitchers. McQuillin was the only one to throw twice. Freshmen Marissa Schuld and Vanessa Foreman made rare starts against UTEP.

Meanwhile, Gina Snyder and Alyssa Denham have traded Saturday starts since conference play began.

The Wildcats have touted their pitching depth all season, but a byproduct of having so many quality options is they often have no idea when they will pitch, usually finding out their fate about an hour before game time.

Oh well, says head coach Mike Candrea.

“I think my biggest thing is you gotta be ready to throw every day,” he said. “So I don’t feel that it’s necessarily a need that I have to announce our pitcher a week in advance. I think for some kids, they might like that. But for others, it gives them too much time to think about it. And so, yeah, it’s just kind of the way it is right now. We’ve kind of shown some different looks on different weekends and I’d like to kind of keep that option open.”

It hasn’t always been this way, McQuillin said. Some seasons have been more predictable for pitchers than others. Last year, for instance, the Wildcats almost always started McQuillin on Fridays and Sundays, and Denham on Saturdays.

The year before, Danielle O’Toole started Fridays and Sundays and McQuillin was the Saturday starter.

But McQuillin understands why this season has been different.

“This year obviously we have a ton of depth in our pitching staff, so we have a ton of different scenarios that we can go with, a ton of different game plans that we could have,” she said. “So it’s a hard decision for the coaches sometimes because you do have six arms. So for them I guess it is a little bit more difficult now that we do have a complete staff. But in the past, it always hasn’t been like that, and we’ve pretty much known when we’re going to throw, what we’re going to do.”

McQuillin, who is 14-5 with a career-best 1.36 ERA, acknowledged it would be nice to know ahead of time when she will be called on to pitch, but said UA players have learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

“I think that every pitcher should have the mindset of being prepared to go in any given situation,” she said. “And that’s what we tell all of our players. You could show up five minutes before game time and guess what, you’re in the lineup today so figure it out.”

Sure, it might sound a little unconventional, but Arizona’s 1.57 ERA — a mark that ranks seventh in the entire country — shows it hasn’t exactly hindered the pitching staff’s performance.

“It’s just a matter of kind of feeling where we’re at and what our opponent looks like, and what are the best matchups,” Candrea said. “And the other thing is trying to get as much work in as we can with other pitchers. I mean, that’s the challenge. And so you kind of play one game at a time, and I kind of work backwards. I’m not one that’s going to walk out and not respect my opponent. Even though we have lots of kids that can play the game, I would rather put my best foot forward and then back off and bring kids into a game than get out of the ordinary.”

T Statman doing well

Candrea said Tuesday that designated player T Statman is doing well after taking a pitch to the eye Friday against Utah.

“She’s got her eyes open, which is a good thing,” he said. “It was a very scary little situation because not having a mask on and anytime you get hit in the eye, you always hope for the best. And she just looked like she was in a prize fight and got the worst end of it. But my biggest thing right now is to get her back in the batter’s box and get her comfortable again, because she was swinging the bat really well.”

The left-handed-hitting Statman is batting .340/.421/.620 in 50 at-bats this year.

Ali Ashner leaves team

Freshman Ali Ashner has left the team. The utility player was an all-conference and all-region performer at Chandler’s Hamilton High School, but she tore her ACL in her senior season after hitting .566 in 21 games.

Ashner never debuted for the Wildcats.

No red jerseys?

The Wildcats have not worn their red uniforms at home in a long time (it has been at least a couple years), so I asked Candrea what the reasoning for that is: