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Arizona utility Ivy Davis hoping to stick at first base

COLLEGE SOFTBALL: FEB 15 UIC at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ivy Davis has started at six positions in two seasons at Arizona. But if everything goes to plan, she will only play one in 2020.

Head coach Mike Candrea said the junior will start at first base when the Wildcats open the season Friday vs. Kansas at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.

Davis is one of three players vying to replace Rylee Pierce, who is now on staff as an undergraduate assistant and regularly gives pointers to her successors, the others being junior Hanah Bowen and senior Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza.

Davis can use the help. She has never played first base at a competitive level, getting her first reps there this fall.

Davis grew up playing the left side of the infield, so the technique at her new position is backwards. She is learning how to field bunts, and occasionally has to remind herself to cover the bag when a pitch is put in play.

“Sometimes I get caught looking a little bit and I’m like, ‘oh, wait, it’s coming to me,’” Davis laughed. “But I love defense, so it’s a fun experience for me. Wherever I can make a difference, wherever I can help the team is fun for me.”

Davis is regarded as one of Arizona’s best defenders, so sticking at first will likely depend on her production at the plate, not her glovework. The Huntington Beach native has hit just .212 in 98 career at-bats, the reason she has been relegated to super-utility role instead of a full-time starter. (She has started in 40 of 121 possible games.)

But Candrea said Davis has looked promising in Arizona’s scrimmages so far, flashing better plate discipline and power to the opposite field. Now it’s a matter of translating it to games.

“We’ve worked really hard with Ivy,” Candrea said. “I think a lot of it, truthfully, it’s really hard when you don’t get a ton of opportunities. So every time you get a chance, you put a little more pressure on yourself that you have to get it done or you’re not going to get another chance. I mean, I understand that mindset, but unfortunately that’s kind of the way the game is played. When you’re in there, you gotta take advantage of your opportunities and you got to cash in on them. Ivy, I think, has worked really hard at trying to slow the game down offensively. I think she’s a very talented kid, has a lot of athletic ability.”

Candrea always says softball, at this level, is 90 percent mental. Davis, a former top-50 recruit, said she has worked on taking deep breaths and clearing her head when she steps in the batter’s box.

“I say it every year but there’s been a lot of maturity over the last three years, a lot of progress mentally and physically just getting myself in the right place and I’ve been feeling a lot better about it,” Davis said.

Davis should have an easier time staying focused now that she knows where she will be playing. In the past, it was common for her to start at multiple positions in one series.

Last season, she made starts in left field, shortstop, right field and second base, all while hitting in four different spots in the batting order.

“Coming to the field is one thing, getting locked in at a different position is different,” Davis said.

Davis has always hit sixth or lower in the batting order, which will likely continue this season. The top of Arizona’s lineup is as good as any in the country, even with star catcher Dejah Mulipola missing the season for the Olympics.

That doesn’t mean Davis isn’t important. Oftentimes it’s the bottom of the lineup that truly makes an offense great. Those hitters have ample opportunities to drive in runs and set the table for the sluggers at the top.

First basemen are usually known for their power and Davis has shown some pop in the past, blasting four homers in 58 at-bats as a freshman.

Ideally, she’d “love to live up to that name” but she remains willing to do whatever it takes to help the Wildcats return to the Women’s College World Series.

“Consistent at-bats are just so crucial and just making a difference in the lineup any way possible,” she said. “Whether it’s small game, or hitting home runs, or getting on base, it’s important.”

Junior Ivy Davis is in line to start at first base for Arizona Softball, a position she has never really played before

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Wednesday, February 5, 2020