The human body can take just so much punishment. Arizona‘s head softball coach, Mike Candrea, thought maybe his 56-year-old body had reached its limit when he quietly excused himself from the third and final game Sunday against Arizona State and was whisked off to the hospital.
Candrea, who has been in the pressure-packed position of a head coach at a major NCAA school (UofA) for 27 years now, was experiencing tightness in his chest that began just after the second inning of the game at ASU. By the fourth inning, he had been checked over by the trainer and was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital for further tests.
He passed an EKG test and then was transported to the University Medical Center in Tucson. Candrea passed a cardiac stress test at UMC the next day and was expected to be released within days.
Assistant coach, Larry Ray, won’t have any trouble holding down the fort until Candrea returns. He’s been in the dugout with Candrea for the past 21 years and even took over the reins a couple of seasons when Candrea left to coach the U.S. Olympic team.
A lack of sufficient sleep and poor eating that often takes place on a road trip were likely contributors to Candrea’s symptoms, but the events of the past few weeks no doubt didn’t help his digestion.
Six of the last 13 games were rained out. That’s like trotting out the ol’ fire horse, who gets ready for the action, only to find out it was a false alarm and he has to return to the fire house.
The Cats (19-8) have been on the road for three straight weekends.
Last week they gave up a total of 32 runs spread over five games.
Their ace pitcher, Kenzie Fowler, has been battling the flu for a week or more – which had a lot to do with the mounting losses.
And the Wildcats have lost four of their last five games. To make that stat even harder to swallow, the last three were to their hated rival, No. 5-ranked ASU. Talk about heartburn!
Arizona entered that series over the weekend with a No. 14 ranking. They’ve dropped to No. 17 in the latest standings, which came out Monday.
And, thanks to the Sun Devils, they have started the conference schedule 0-3.
The Cats, understandably distracted by the absence of their coach, let ASU come back from a 6-0 deficit to win Sunday’s game, 7-6. It’s a good thing Candrea wasn’t around to witness the end of that one; if the first two losses didn’t put him over the edge, that one would have.
Saturday’s ASU victory came after a similar collapse when the Devils dug their way out of a 3-0 hole to win 4-2, and a walk-off home run by Elizabeth Caporuscio in the eighth inning of Friday’s game got the sweep started with a 9-6 ASU win.
After the debacle in Tempe, and the scare with their head coach, the Cats were ready for a little relief. So a mid-week series with a .500 team from the Mountain West Conference seemed in order.
It took them just five innings to beat San Diego State last night, the first of two games with the Aztecs at Hillenbrand Stadium. They got started in the second inning with five runs, fueled with a double by Kristen Arriola and a home run from Brigette Del Ponte – who added the three insurance runs in the fifth with another round trip to force the 5-inning run rule.
Del Ponte, the junior from Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria, packs a big punch in a small 5’3″ package. Her prep play helped lead Sunrise Mountain to three state titles.
Shelby Babcock, the Cats’ sophomore hurler from Colorado, went the full distance on the mound for the win.
The Aztecs shouldn’t be a problem tonight either. But then it’s back into the conference pressure cooker as No. 13 Stanford rolls into Tempe for a three-game weekend series. The Cardinal also lost their conference-opening series, so they’re just as hungry for a win.
Break out the Rolaids.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)