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What they said about Arizona’s elimination from the Women’s College World Series and Mike Candrea’s legacy

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Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

OKLAHOMA CITY — Arizona softball saw its season come to an end Saturday with a 4-3 loss to Florida State at the Women’s College World Series.

Arizona led FSU 2-0 through five innings but the Seminoles hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth. The Wildcats tied the game 3-3 in the top of the seventh, but FSU won in the bottom of the inning by way of a walk-off sacrifice fly.

The Wildcats finish the season 41-15 overall.

Our full recap can be found HERE and below are some notable postgame quotes from Arizona head coach Mike Candrea and senior infielders Malia Martinez and Reyna Carranco.

Candrea on the sixth inning three-run homer allowed by Mariah Lopez: “Yeah, it’s tough because...we have to stay away from the crooked number, and it wasn’t the home run that got me as much as it is the two walks before that. When you get to this level, you can’t afford to give people unforced bases, and I feel bad for Mariah, but Mariah has been through so much and has done such a wonderful job. You can’t get mad at that.”

Carranco on the team’s resiliency to tie the game in the seventh inning: “Yeah, I knew we could pick up our pitcher. We wouldn’t go down without a fight, and I think that just describes our senior class. We’re kind of — we like to be the bulk of this team and we just knew we weren’t going to go down without a fight. We were going to do everything that we could.”

Martinez on her third inning homer: “Yeah, it was really cool. The mindset for us is always pass the bat. I went up there, I wanted to square something up and just get on base so then Peanut behind me can make something happen. It’s a cool feeling. It’s definitely a memory I’ll always have.”

Carranco on the culture built by the super senior class: “Yeah, it made me so happy because they are some of my best friends and it just got me so excited to see them there because I know they are really rooting for us. I thought about my freshman year when I played with Katiyana (Mauga), and I thought, this game is for her, we’re doing this for her, and for the whole senior class and all the people who played here before because we really are a sister here before.”

Martinez on the experience of playing for Candrea: “I feel like I am forever indebted to Coach because he has had such an impact on my life and really built me into the person I am both on and off the field. He’s always there for me and I just love that man so much, and I owe him everything. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be able to play for him.”

Carranco on potentially playing for one of Candrea’s last teams: “Yeah, I’m just so grateful to play for him; that he gave me the opportunity, and yeah, he’s like a second dad to most of our team. And all of our team, he’s like a father figure to all of us. We’re all so grateful. We know he’s going to be here throughout the rest of our lives and we’ll be able to count on him, and we’re so grateful to be able to have him as such a big part of our lives.”

Candrea on the joys of coaching at Arizona: “Well, it’s a blessing. I mean, not often do you get to do something that you love to do and then surround yourself with people that you never want to see leave. You know, every athlete that I’ve ever been a part of at Arizona, it’s a lifelong relationship, and as a coach, that’s what you hope. I hope that I treat them well. I hope I treat them like my daughter. And I hope that I can continue to be a part of their life, because it is all about when you spend this much time together, it’s awfully hard not to be that way.

And so, I told the kids, the one thing that I realized in my career, you’re really only the gatekeeper at the end of the day, and I just hope that this program is stable. I’ve tried to do the right things the right way, and I hope that it has an impact and influence on the kids that I coach. Because I think the one thing that I take very seriously is being a mentor and being a role model. I always tell them everything I do, I always think about how it’s going to affect them for all these years.”

Candrea on speculation he might retire after this season: “Yeah, you know, I usually — at the end of every year, once you get to my age, you kind of evaluate life and things, and the only thing I can tell you is when that day comes, I will do it on my own terms and make that decision. But right now, I’m not in any position. Right now I feel bad for these kids, and we’ve just busted our butts to try to keep playing. So I will let it all absorb and go from there.”

Candrea on seeing so many former players sitting behind the dugout: “Well, I can’t express it in words. It means a lot. It means a lot to these kids that are playing and it means a lot to me. You know the one thing that I can tell you right now is that I’m very, very proud of the tradition that has been built at Arizona. And the one thing I’ve always wanted to do is make it a family. I try to treat it like a family. When I see all of them, you know, that’s our family. I kind of look at that as, you know, they are here because they want to help this group. And many of them that are in the stands have had this experience. You know, many of them walked out of here with a great feeling and a National Championship and some haven’t.

“But on the other hand, I think one of my proudest moments at Arizona is our alumni, being in touch with each and every one of them as much as I can. The only thing that I can tell you that I try to do every day is I’ve got — in my planner, I’ve got a list of birthdays, and I try not to miss a birthday of any kid that’s played for me. I take that very seriously.

“So I hope that connection is what kind of allows moments like this to happen, but they are very proud of their time at Arizona, I hope and feel that they do, and I think it just makes a huge impact with the kids today. Because many of those kids are the kids that they looked up to when they started playing the game. They were the role models. And so when they are sitting in the stands cheering for you, it’s pretty uplifting.”