Mike Candrea used to hunt for the best skill sets on the recruiting trail. Who could hit the ball the farthest, who could light up the radar gun.
While those traits are still key to his process, his strategy has shifted over the last decade or so. He said he has placed a greater priority on landing high-character recruits, those that will buy into the storied history and tradition of Arizona softball.
He believes the 2021 class, which put pen to paper last week, fits that mold.
“They’re good students, they’re good people, they come from good families, and they’ve all played the game at the highest level that they can to this point, and the next jump is going from travel ball to Division I softball,” he said Wednesday, his first interview since National Signing Day. “That can be different for each and every one of them, but I really liked their character and I think they all bring something to the table that we won’t know until a year from now or two years from now how they develop.”
The class consists of four players, half the size of the 2020 class. Fortunately, they were able to visit and commit to Arizona before the coronavirus pandemic thrust the recruiting landscape into an indefinite dead period that bans in-person contact.
The 2021 class will have to help replace the seven star seniors who will depart from Arizona after this upcoming season.
“I think we’re bringing in a class that’s going to give us a really good addition to our solid freshman class that we brought in last year,” Candrea said. “We were looking for a little bit of help, we brought four kids in.”
Here’s what Candrea said about each of them.
On Paige Dimler, a top-100 recruit: “She’s a left-handed-hitter, left-handed thrower outfielder from San Diego, California. And I think she’s really got a lot of upside. She could be a five-tool player. I mean, she’s does a lot of good things, was kind of a late bloomer but I think offensively she’s gonna bring some pop to the outfielders that we already have. Our outfield primarily right now is lots of speed and so I think she’ll be a good addition to this group, and we’re excited to have her. She’s from Rancho Buena Vista High School and played for the SoCal Breakers in travel ball.”
On Madi Elish, a top-40 recruit: “Right-handed pitcher from Crown Point, Indiana. If the name sounds familiar, her sister pitched for Oregon and is now at Texas and has had a very solid career. And I think Maddie is a very competitive young lady with a really good softball IQ, spins the ball quite well, and I think still is developing, still getting stronger, but she knows how to compete and knows how to get people out and I think we’re really excited to have her join us.”
On Amber Toven, who’s ranked just outside Softball America’s Top 100: “She’s a left-handed hitter, right-handed thrower from Sierra Canyon High School, lives in Northridge, California, and she’s a kid that’s got good speed and can swing the bat with a little bit of power, was ranked fairly high I think in the recruiting class of ‘21. So we’re excited to have her. She plays for Mercado’s SoCal Athletics and I think will be a very good addition.” (Toven is an infielder.)
On Allie Enright, a top-40 recruit: “An outfielder from the SoCal Choppers. That should sound familiar because Jess Harper came from that organization—and Jessie Fontes. She’s basically a right-handed thrower, plays centerfield, will probably be able to play any position in the outfield but definitely a power hitter.”