KELLY: A puzzle in the circle

KELLY: A puzzle in the circle
(Cover photo courtesy: Arizona Athletics)
(Cover photo courtesy: Arizona Athletics)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona Softball opened the season with an impressive three-game sweep of the Oklahoma State Cowgirls, but there are some looming concerns once again about the state of the Wildcats pitching staff.

Michelle Floyd, who many thought would be an ace for UA after a remarkably stellar high school career, did not pitch at all in Weekend 1.

Not only did she not pitch but in several pre-season interviews head coach Mike Candrea failed to or barely even mentioned her name; this after a freshman campaign in which she pitched sparingly in a reserve role.

Floyd dominated the high school scene in California where she was a three-time 1st team all-state selection.

But if she can't make the transition to the collegiate level she will be the latest in a line of projected aces who have not been able to grab Candrea's rotation by the horns and excel at a high-level.

Since the departure of two-time National Champion Taryne Mowatt, there was Amanda Williams who flunked out before ever appearing in a game, Kenzie Fowler, who after leading UA to the brink of the 2010 National Championship as a freshman, had her career derail by injuries, now Floyd is battling what Candrea categorized as inconsistencies.

It appears clear that 2015 again is going to be starter by committee for the 30th-year head coach who may have a power arm in freshman Trish Parks.

Parks pitched in all three games this past weekend logging 13 innings and striking out ten while allowing just two earned runs.

She touched 69-70 on the radar in her Friday night debut and pitched a complete game shutout on Saturday.

Parks showed tremendous resolve in almost escaping a second and third no-out jam Sunday in extra innings. She induced an inning-ending ground ball but shortstop Kellie Fox bobbled it for an error allowing the go-ahead run to score.

Parks came back to contribute a two-out single in the bottom of the 8th to keep the Wildcats winning rally alive. Fellow freshman Ashleigh Hughes followed her single with the game-winning two-run triple.

Offense probably won't be much of an issue for Arizona this season, but the pitching staff continues to be a work in progress.

Candrea liked the way junior Nancy Bowling recovered quickly after allowing a solo home run in Friday's 12-2 win over Oklahoma State.

Bowling started but struggled in one inning on Sunday escaping a 2nd and 3rd one-out jam before giving away to junior Siera Phillips.

Phillips, a left-hander, allowed just one-hit over three innings and made the Cowgirls look silly at times with a high-40 miles per hour change up.

But the key to any long-term run in May could reside with if Floyd can figure it out at the college level and be the front-line starter the Wildcats thought they were getting when they recruited her.

If not Candrea may be waiting on the next phenom in line, Gatorade Player of the Year Taylor McQuillin who will arrive at University and Park next fall. Ironically choosing Arizona after de-committing from her first choice, the same Oklahoma State program the Wildcats swept this weekend.

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