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Arizona softball focuses on right-handed power in class of 2024

Arizona head softball coach Caitlin Lowe gives a rundown of the five members of the Wildcats’ 2024 signing class

Class of 2024 C/UTIL Emma Kavanagh is one of five players who signed with Arizona softball last week
Class of 2024 C/UTIL Emma Kavanagh is one of five players who signed with Arizona softball last week
Photo courtesy of Emma Kavanagh

For the past two seasons, the story of Arizona recruiting has been about getting stronger in the circle. In the class of 2024, it’s about getting stronger from the right side of the plate.

“They got on me a little bit about getting some righties,” Lowe said. “I’m like, ‘I like lefties with power.’ No, but a lot of righty power and just kids that I can’t say enough about their character and the way they play the game.”

Lowe is pleased with the balance the class brings when compared to the 2023 class. That class just wrapped up fall ball, giving fans and media the first glimpse of their strengths. Speed is a major attribute of this year’s freshmen. Outfielder Reagan Shockey showed that she can get things done in centerfield and on the basepaths. With the aggressive baserunning philosophy of offensive coach Josh Bloomer, that will be a big part of the Wildcats’ offensive approach.

However, power is still a big part of the game and Arizona will lose a great deal of power after this season. Seniors Allie Skaggs and Carlie Scupin are finishing up their time in Tucson. Skaggs tied for the Pac-12 lead in home runs as a sophomore. Scupin was injured for much of last year, but her power has never been in doubt and she looked to have fully recovered that power this fall. Now, Arizona looks to the future beyond Scupin and Skaggs.

“Last year, we had a couple speed kids and then a couple arms, and this year we’ve added quite a bit of pop,” Lowe said. “All power hitting from the offensive standpoint and some great tools defensively. Very, very slick defenders. They come in with a really good base. So we’re excited to just kind of hit the ground running with that defensively.”

Kate Vance, INF from Hamilton (Chandler, AZ) High School

Club: Arizona Storm - Mathis

The class consists of five players with the highest-ranked being infielder Kate Vance out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz. Vance is ranked No. 11 by MaxPreps in its top 20 and tied for No. 6 by Extra Inning Softball.* If EIS accounted for the ties in its placements, she would be tied for 20th. Vance was one of 15 players named to the first team of the 2022 MaxPreps Underclass All-America Softball Team as a sophomore.

Through her first three years of high school softball, Vance has appeared in 90 games and has a .452 batting average.

Vance is listed as a middle infielder and outfielder in some recruiting profiles. While Arizona’s recruiting press release simply mentions that she is an infielder, Lowe raved about her versatility.

“Kate’s been on our radar for forever because she’s just in our backyard and has come to camps since she was young, young,” Lowe said. “And just plays the game the right way and packs a punch for her size. Can really play, I don’t want to say every defensive position but she’s more of like a Logan [Cole] and a Tayler [Biehl] where we could her throw into the outfield if we wanted. She could play any infield position that we wanted. So, a true just Swiss Army knife, and can do a lot of things. Super athletic. Pop from the right side.”

Emma Kavanagh, C/UTIL from Barrington (IL) High School

Club: Illinois Chill - Quinn

Just behind Vance in the recruiting rankings is catcher/utility player Emma Kavanagh out of Barrington (IL) High School. Kavanagh comes ranked at No. 7 in the MaxPreps top 20 and tied for seventh in EIS. Under a more traditional ranking system, she would be tied for 28th in EIS.

As for her position, Kavanagh is one of the best of the business. EIS has her tied for second among catchers in the 2024 class. She will join a strong group of catchers at Arizona, all of whom are young.

By the time Kavanagh arrives, the Wildcats are due to have both Olivia DiNardo and Emily Schepp. The trio should help Arizona keep its catching numbers up so the team does not get into a bind due to injuries or absences like they did last season. Kavanagh can also play a corner infield spot, which Arizona will need after the graduation of Scupin and Blaise Biringer.

Kavanagh should be a fan favorite from the start. Despite living across the country, she has been a dedicated Wildcat from the day she committed. It’s not just about softball, either. Her social media feeds are full of posts supporting all Wildcat sports. She’s as close to a local as you can get if you grew up in Barrington, Illinois.

“She’s been gung-ho,” Lowe said. “She follows everything and most sports, which is exciting because I think that’s the kind of athletic community that we have here is that everybody’s in support of each other. So, she’s just chomping at the bit to get here and get started.”

Kavanagh is another player who will bring power to the lineup. Through her first two seasons in high school, she had 110 hits, 110 runs scored, 31 doubles, 32 home runs, and 92 RBI.

Jenna Sniffen, 3B from Maryknoll School (Honolulu, HI)

Club: OC Batbusters - Stith

The world of Hawai’i softball is on the rise. Players who were in elementary and middle school when Jocelyn Alo began her run at Oklahoma are starting to approach college age. Whether the current crop is young enough to have entered the sport because of her, there’s no doubt that she has a huge influence on the sport in the islands.

Sniffen is Arizona’s first Hawai’ian recruit, but she won’t be the last. The Wildcats just got a verbal commitment from 2025 Kezia Lucas.

“If I told you Jenna’s schedule, you would think there’s no way,” Lowe said. “She’s flying in on flights that get her there just in time to throw on a uniform and jump into the dugout and she heads straight to the airport on a Sunday afternoon after the games are over... She’s done it at least three times this fall that I’ve seen, probably two more times within this recruiting travel ball window. It’s impressive. It’s a level of commitment that—we have a lot of Arizona kids that traveled to California to play but this is a whole nother level of investment from her family. She just wanted to play for a really good travel ball team. And, you know, the greatest thing now is there’s great teams in Hawaii that are starting to pop up and the competition is getting so much better and they’re traveling to play all the best teams. So, just really the growth and them being able to develop has been fantastic because they produce a whole lot of athletes and it’s just, you know, are they getting the right resources to help them develop and right now it’s growing so much there and we’re really excited about it.”

In 2019, Sniffen announced herself to the country in the Little League Softball World Series. The next year, it was on to prep softball and the 2021 Gatorade State Player of the Year for Hawai’i as just a freshman. She did that by hitting .596 with 13 home runs, 40 runs batted in, and 29 runs scored. She had an OPS of 1.948.

As a sophomore, Sniffen led her program to its first state title with contributions both in the batter’s box and the circle. She struck out 10 and hit a 3-run homer to secure the championship. That effort had her named to the second team of the 2022 MaxPreps Underclass All-America Softball Team. After her junior year, MaxPreps still had her listed as the top player in the state.

Sniffen is tied for No. 16 in the EIS rankings. When adjusted for those ties, it’s the equivalent of being ranked No. 59.

While Sniffen has pitched in both rec ball and high school ball, she plays third base in travel ball.

Sarah Wright, RHP from Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) High School

Club: Northwest Bullets 18U - Muir

Arizona has gone heavy with pitching recruits in recent years, but that wasn’t a huge focus in the 2024 class. Sarah Wright will be the only freshman pitcher entering the program for the 2025 season.

“It’s been exciting for us to kind of watch her develop throughout the years and she’s got a great base that she’s starting with,” Lowe said. “She’s a high-velo kid that can go up and down right now. And I think that Christian has been really excited about getting her in here and getting to work with her. So she again—I know I say this a lot but—she matches well with the rest of our staff as far as when Devyn [Netz] leaves and she comes in so just excited to see her grow throughout the four years because she’s starting with a good base.”

EIS ranks Wright in a tie for No. 84. A traditionally numbered ranking system would have her tied for No. 508. Among the pitchers in the class, EIS has her ranked No. 48. Because of the unaccounted-for ties in EIS, that’s the equivalent of No. 71.

Wright pitches on the same travel team as the No. 1 pitcher (and player) in the class, Addisen Fisher. Fisher is on her way to UCLA.

Wright is not afraid to take on new challenges. She’s not just a two-sport athlete but a two-sport athlete who has ventured out as a pioneer in the growing sport of girls' wrestling.

“She’s a state champion wrestler, which it’s—yeah, I love it,” Lowe said. “I mean, the mentality that must bring.”

Anyssa Wild, INF from Salpointe Catholic (Tucson, Ariz.)

Club: Arizona Storm and Oro Valley Sun Cats

Anyssa Wild was a latecomer to the class, committing in September when players from the 2025 class were already making their pledges. Although she was part of a team that won three state titles at Salpointe, her recruitment did not proceed as expected.

“She was hurt for quite a bit of her recruiting process,” Lowe said. “When you first go out and see people, she was kind of banged up throughout that. So, kind of some rough timing on her end, and then just finally got to see her play kind of towards the end of wrapping up our class for 2024.”

Wild initially committed to Brigham Young. Todd Judge, who was her former travel ball coach with the Oro Valley Sun Cats, was an assistant coach on the Cougars’ staff at the time. He left in June to take over as the head coach of Utah State.

Lowe was happy to welcome her home. Like several other players in the class, Wild can play first or third base, although her primary position has been third. With the departures of Scupin and Biringer after the 2024 season, those positions will need filling.

“She’s a great person, a great teammate,” Lowe said. “We’re going to be trying to fill a void left by Scup, which is a big void in a lot of ways. So, just getting some depth in the corner positions and infield positions entirely. Just really excited to get to work with her. She provides some pop offensively and then defensively, we’ll see when she gets here. I think that’s kind of the key with all freshmen is how they fit in once they get there.”

*NOTE: Most rankings in this article come from Extra Inning Softball. EIS uses ties but doesn’t account for those ties in their placements. If two players are ranked No. 1, the next player would still be ranked No. 2 rather than No. 3. As a result, 49 players are in the 2024 “top 10.”