Tucson high school pitchers keeping UA softball on top

When Mike Candrea put Stacy Iveson on his coaching staff in July, he added some great talent and experience to the University of Arizona softball program.

But a significant added-value benefit became obvious when Estela Pinon signed her letter of intent to play for the Wildcats.

The young pitcher led her Yavapai College team to a national junior college championship last year as a freshman, posting a 30-3 record and being named the Most Oustanding Pitcher and Most Valuable Player at the NJCAA National Tournament.

Her coach last year was Iveson, who undoubtedly had an influence on Pinon selecting Arizona to continue her career after one more season with the 2-year Prescott College.

Iverson was on the coaching staff at Arizona for seven years before leaving for a head-coaching opportunity in the junior college ranks.  She won four national titles as a JUCO head coach, two at Pima Community College and two more at Yavapai – the latest just last year.

The 2012 recruiting class for Arizona, which is probably one of the best in the country, also includes a couple more pitchers who will provide the nationally-prominent program with great depth on the mound, and a nice transition when current ace, Kenzie Fowler, graduates after two more campaigns.

Shelby Babcock, a hard-throwing righthander who was a Pac-10 All-Freshman Team selection last year, will be an upperclassman by that time and should provide additional leadership to go with the added depth.

Fowler, who carried the Cats to the national championship game in 2010 and came back to post a 26-9 record last year, is just a junior this year.  That means she will still be around when the new kids arrive next year, allowing them time to learn the ropes behind one of the best pitchers in the country before having to take on the full load.

And it’s even better that Fowler and Pinon came up through local high school programs.  Fowler was a two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year at Canyon del Oro High School, while Pinon was a standout at Sunnyside High School, both in Tucson.

The seven-member Class of 2012 includes two more pitchers, Darcy Taylor from Oklahoma and California’s Nancy Bowling.

Taylor was listed by Arizona as a first baseman, but is also a solid performer on the mound.  Last year as a junior she posted 160 strikeouts as she compiled a 27-5 record and a 1.93 ERA.  And she contributes at the plate, too, batting .504 with 17 home runs.

Bowling can play first or third when not pitching and is also a .500 hitter.  On the mound, she posted a 0.49 ERA last season.

Two other local products are included in the recruiting class:  outfielder Gabby Sandstedt from Independence High School in Glendale and Courtney Rodriguez, a shortstop from Seton Catholic in Chandler.

During Iveson’s earlier tour as an assistant coach at Arizona, from 1996-2001, she worked with the Wildcat pitchers and catchers.  During that time, she mentored Jennie Finch, one of the school’s best all-time pitchers and later a star with the U.S. Olympics team.

Now, she has some new talent to mold in Kenzie Fowler.  And more on the way.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)