It has been a week of loss for the wider Wildcat family off the field. On the field, Arizona softball is finally past the most difficult portion of its schedule and is looking to close the season out on a strong note.
Tucson educator and former Wildcat Stacy Redondo-Santa Cruz dies of a stroke at the age of 52
As first reported by All Sports Tucson, Stacy Redondo-Santa Cruz died after suffering a stroke at the age of 52 this week. Redondo-Santa Cruz was a member of legendary coach Mike Candrea’s first teams at Arizona, playing from 1989 to 1993.
The graduate of Cholla High School on Tucson’s west side went on to lead Salpointe Catholic softball to the state playoffs in 2013 and 2014 as a coach. She also spent years as an educator in Tucson and was teaching third grade at Roskruge Bilingual Magnet School at the time of her passing.
Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe and Redondo-Santa Cruz were a generation apart on the field. Redondo-Santa Cruz was part of the first two national titles for the program and Lowe was a part of the last two. However, Lowe said that the Wildcat family extends beyond just being teammates.
“The whole Wildcat community was mourning yesterday and still is and kind of in shock,” Lowe said. “Just love the family and love what she did for this program and in just life and in the softball world, and just my heart goes out to them for what they’re going through right now. And we will always remember what she did for this program and that’s just irreplaceable.”
The walking wounded are less wounded
Arizona played last week with 16 of its 18 players available in some capacity. The Wildcats continue to get closer to full strength.
Star first baseman Carlie Scupin has been working to get back for almost the entire five weeks since her left arm was broken by a pitch against New Mexico State on Mar. 15. She has been working to stay ready both offensively and defensively within the limitations caused by the surgery and broken bone. She was ready to take the next step on Tuesday.
“She just told me she’s gonna try to hit batting practice today,” Lowe said. “So, I’m hoping that goes well. She’s been hitting front toss, off the tee, standing in for a lot so that she can just see spin, regardless of if she’s swinging or not. So, BP this week. Hopefully, some stuff off of live pitching as soon as possible.”
Joining Scupin among the injured last week was freshman utility Logan Cole. While she has mostly served as a pinch runner this season, Cole branched out as the Wildcats’ roster became smaller and smaller due to absences and injuries. She played both right field and shortstop over the last few weeks until she suffered a concussion last week. While Lowe described it as a “minor” concussion, it was enough to take Cole off the field for the UCLA series.
“She is practicing today, everything but batting practice,” Lowe said on Tuesday. “She will be impact tested after practice to see if she’s good for Grand Canyon.”
Top 10 season is over and now it’s a 10-game season
The Wildcats are finally done playing top 10 teams in the regular season. They have faced a team ranked in the top 10 in each of the past three Pac-12 series, two of those on the road. Earlier in the year, they played three top 10 teams for a total of five games outside of league play. All of those were played away from Hillenbrand Stadium with three being true road games.
The Wildcats ended their regular season matchups against top 10 teams at 2-12. They had a run differential of -30 in those games, a number that ballooned after last week’s series against UCLA when they were outscored 30-9. Prior to the series against the Bruins, Arizona’s biggest loss to a top 10 team was by four runs against Stanford and it had a run differential of just -9 against the toughest teams on its schedule.
While Lowe said during the UCLA series that there’s no real relief about getting through that part of the schedule because every series is tough in the Pac-12, the Wildcats now have an opportunity to try to get their feet back under them over the final 10 games of the regular season. That all starts at GCU on Wednesday.
“I’m hoping we treat, honestly, the next few weeks as this 10-game season and what can we do with a fresh start and just going into it with a different perspective and learning from the past, but kind of setting a trend for what we want to look like in the next 10 games and getting on a roll,” Lowe said.
The role of pitcher Ali Blanchard
Earlier in the season, pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney said that the Wildcats were trying to figure out what Ali Blanchard’s role would be on the pitching staff. Against UCLA, she was responsible for long relief. What she does going forward depends a lot on who they’re facing and the situation, but Lowe said that she was pleased with Blanchard’s work over the weekend.
“I think it’s totally on matchups of how we see other teams on offense and then who’s pitching in front of her...if that’s a good matchup or not,” Lowe said. “I was honestly really proud of the way she came out Friday presence wise and just going right at people. I think that’s the type of pitcher she can be. And I know she wants a couple pitches back, but for me that’s just intent in what you’re throwing, and I think she needs to have the conviction in those pitches. And I think her ball attacks a different way when she’s got the confidence behind it just like we swing the bat a different way with a different confidence.”