#10/9 Arizona Wildcats (36-9, 9-6 Pac-12) vs. Utah Utes (23-21, 5-12 Pac-12)
|Friday, April 25||6:00 p.m.||Utah||Hillenbrand Stadium|
|Saturday, April 26||6:00 p.m.||Utah||Hillenbrand Stadium|
|Sunday, April 27||12:00 p.m.||Utah||Hillenbrand Stadium|
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Arizona athletes who want to compete professionally must go down a long and difficult path in order to make those dreams a reality. Softball pitcher and Tucson native Estela Piñon is a senior who is currently playing her second season with the team after transferring from Yavapai College.
Piñon, a right handed pitcher, was recently selected fourth overall in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) by the Chicago Bandits.
“It’s an honor, and it is very exciting,” Piñon said. “I did not know I was going to get drafted that early or even get drafted at all, but it was a very exciting moment.”
Piñon began her collegiate athletic career at Yavapai, where she had a stellar 1.63 ERA, a batting average of .421, and had an overall record of 51-6 over the course of two years. Her extra experience at Yavapai combined with these numbers proved to be enough of a résumé for Piñon to become a Wildcat.
“I think my improvement over the years has obviously been in my pitching,” Piñon said. “I feel like I am a little more in control and I have more confidence. I know what I need to throw, and I don’t second guess myself anymore.”
Piñon was coached at Yavapai by then head coach Stacy Iveson, who played for Arizona from 1986-89. Iveson made her return to the U of A as assistant coach the same year that Piñon joined the team and she has been able to observe and influence the majority of Piñon’s collegiate athletic career.
“I have definitely seen some major growth since her time at Yavapai,” Iveson said. “Her freshman year-just from the start to the finish-she has made giant leaps. Since she has been here, she has put everything together by using the strength program she does here, working with Alicia (assistant coach Hollowell), and by becoming more mature. She has honed new pitches like a drop ball, which has really done wonders for her.”
One of Iveson’s fondest memories of Piñon is of her 2011 season, in particular her clutch-post season play that helped Yavapai win the NJCAA Softball National Championship.
“She had a great regular season, and then when we got into the post season we stumbled a little bit our first game,” Iveson said. “We had to beat Pima College twice. It was kind of an emotional game because I am from Tucson and coached at Pima, and a lot of Estela’s friends were on that team. We needed her to step up big time and she totally answered the call. She did a great job pitching for us, and she also had a lot of clutch hits.”
Iveson’s presence was beneficial to Piñon, especially during her first season with the Wildcats.
“She came here last year, which was my first year with the program,” Piñon said. “It was nice to have someone who has already coached me. She knows the type of player that I am. She knows when I am struggling, having a bad day, or need help. I just felt very comfortable having her here because she is so easy to talk to and I had already established a connection with her.”
Iveson is not the only coach who has noticed Piñon’s improvements over the years. Former U of A softball pitching great Hollowell was drafted to the NPF fifth overall in 2006, and also has noticed the parts of the game Piñon has fine-tuned.
“Iveson has improved in every way,” Hollowell said. “To be able to come in from a junior college and step up and play at a higher level is a difficult thing to do. Her pitches have all gotten better rotation and movement. She has started throwing harder and has gotten in better shape. In all the facets of the game, I think she has done a really good job of improving.”
Piñon not only has her career in the NPF to look forward to, but she was also just given the opportunity to compete on the Mexican National team.
“I am very excited,” Piñon said. “It is such a huge honor to represent on the Mexican National team. It’s an opportunity I can’t pass up.”
Piñon’s path to professional softball has been long, unpredictable and has required a lot of hard work. She is currently 13-5 on the season, has an ERA of 2.24, and is leading the team in strikeouts (93).
“I think Estela’s fire, drive, and work ethic are the best qualities that she brings to the team,” Hollowell said. “She is somebody who can’t be told she can’t do something, because she will find a way to get it done and prove you wrong.”