T Statman remembers being terrified as a freshman on the Arizona softball team.
She saw how fast and strong her older teammates were, and thought she would never be on their level.
“I came into college never lifting a weight in my life,” Statman said. “And freshman year, it was hard. ... But you grow into it and eventually it just becomes routine. And going into it, I knew it was gonna be really hard. And luckily, I was able to tough it out.”
Now, Statman is one of those older girls. She and the rest of Arizona’s senior class will take the field this weekend for their final regular-season home series at Hillenbrand Stadium when the Wildcats host No. 4 Washington.
Statman, who’s made 24 starts and is hitting a career-high .333, said she is “really excited” but also expects to shed a few tears.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” she said of her four years at the UA. “The sweat, the tears, the blood, there’s just a lot of emotion.”
The Wildcats have six seniors, all of whom contribute in different ways, some obvious, some not.
Taylor McQuillin is the ace and Rylee Pierce is the starting first baseman. Statman and Hillary Edior have produced nicely in the designated player spot, trading off at the position depending on the pitching matchups.
Joelle Krist, Pierce’s backup, and Gina Snyder, the team’s No. 4 pitcher, have not played much, but by all accounts the Wildcats have terrific team chemistry, and head coach Mike Candrea credits them for setting the tone.
“I thought they’ve done a very nice job of leading by example and stepping up even when things were tough for themselves,” Candrea said. “And I think that’s kind of the culmination of everything right now is when things get tough for you as an individual, there’s still a team that’s in the forefront and more important. And so from here on out this really becomes a team sport, to where if you’re having a bad day, you’re gonna have to find a way to do whatever you can to help the team be successful and you don’t have time to worry about anything else.”
Statman’s fondest memories at the UA include driving in the game-winning run in the Knoxville Regional as a freshman, winning the Pac-12 on UCLA’s field as a sophomore, and laying down a bunt in an inconsequential game in Palm Springs.
“My freshman year, I put down a bunt, and it moved to runner and later we scored a run,” Statman said. “But Mandie (Perez) came up to me and she was like, ‘that was you. That was all you.’ So stuff like that kind of sticks with you.”
McQuillin’s favorite moment has been her entire career.
“I think that just being able to come to Arizona in general, that’s the defining moment within itself, being able to come here and play with the the teammates that I’ve been able to have and just being able to say that I was part of Arizona’s tradition,” she said. “I’ll leave here being able to play for not arguably the best coach in the country, because he is the best coach in the country, and say that I gave everything I had.”
McQuillin, 19-5 with a career-best 1.22 ERA, was originally committed to Oklahoma State, but realized Arizona was the right place for her after a memorable conversation with Candrea.
“I remember sitting in coach’s office before I even committed anywhere, and he told me, ‘you’re going to go on all these visits and I’m not gonna sit here and be a car salesman. If you want to come here, you will and this is a school that will teach you about life after college and the journey of life’ and that really stuck with me,” she said. “And ultimately when the decision came down to it, that’s one of the top reasons I chose Arizona was because Coach isn’t a car salesman. If you want to come here, you will. And if you don’t, that’s on you but you’re really missing out.”
McQuillin was drafted into the NPF and will continue her softball career after college. Most players aren’t so lucky. Most are in Statman’s boat. They take their last cuts or toss their final pitches and join the workforce like everyone else.
Softball, the sport they have played their entire life, the game that often defines them as people, devolves into a collection of memories.
Sure, Statman’s class still has time to make new ones—their careers could extend all the way into June if Arizona reaches the Women’s College World Series—but they know senior weekend marks the beginning of the end.
“At the end of the day, it’s a game. And yet it’s sad that after four years, we have to see it come to an end,“ said Statman, who hopes to work in radio. “College softball is the pinnacle of softball for most of the girls and being a senior and having it be your last regular season home game, it’s going to be very emotional.”