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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)


Alexis Kaiser and Isabel Pacho, two of the most productive softball players in Tucson history -- both part of state championship teams -- were offered and accepted scholarships when they were freshmen. Kaiser is going to Syracuse; Pacho will play at Arizona.

In four years at Canyon del Oro, catcher Kaiser has hit .518 with 29 home runs and 124 RBIs. In her three seasons at Ironwood Ridge, third baseman Pacho has hit .548 with 30 home runs and 145 RBIs.

According to legislation passed last week by the NCAA Division I Council, prospects like Kaiser and Pacho will no longer to able to accept a college scholarship -- or even talk to a college coach -- until Sept. 1 of their junior season.

Even though he has benefited from early recruiting as much as any coach in softball history, UA coach Mike Candrea lobbied the National Fastpitch Coaches Association to pursue such legislation. Per capita, it affects Tucson as much as any city in America.

Consider this: Amphitheater sophomore shortstop Kristiana Watson committed to a Pac-12 school when she was in eighth grade; Watson, who hit an astonishing .756 as an Amphi freshman, has chosen not to make public the name of the school to which she committed.

Tucson High sophomore first baseman Carlie Scupin committed to Arizona when she was 14. In her two varsity seasons, Scupin has hit an incredible .622 with 24 home runs.

And that's not all: CDO's Ellessa Bonstrom, who has hit .443, .495, .451 and .420 in her four years as a Dorados starter, committed to Utah when she was 14.

Candrea further offered a scholarship to Capistrano Valley High slugger Giulia Koutsoyanopulos when she was 13 -- she accepted -- and to Southern California pitcher Jessie Fontes, now at Simi Valley's Grace Brethren High School, when she was 14. She also accepted and will join Koutsoyanopulos in Arizona's Class of 2020. How's Fontes doing? She has struck out 358 batters in 164 high school innings.

When the NCAA last week changed softball's recruiting parameters, Candrea told ESPN for Women "for myself, it's difficult talking to a seventh-grader and trying to understand what they are looking for in life."

Once approved by the NCAA Board of Directors this week, the early-recruiting legislation will not affect college basketball or football. Those two revenue sports continue with their own rules, but it makes sense that sooner or later the NCAA should establish uniformity among recruiting in all sports.

"When a young athlete is 13 or 14, you don't know what kind of student they are going to be," said Candrea. "You don't know if they will still be playing softball by the time they get to college. It's just a big gamble."

Tucson has been fortunate that young players such as Kaiser, Pacho, Scupin, Bonstrom and Watson continue to excel after their early commitments. They have avoided the potential for burnout and change-of-direction that makes it a risk for both player and coach.

Credit: Greg Hansen Arizona Daily Star

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April 22, 2018


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