Every athlete that heads off to college has visions of what their four-year career at their chosen university will look like.
Four year starter. Championships. Lasting legacy.
And yes, sometimes the fairy tale comes true and everything is peaches and cream.
For former Legacy softball standout Shelby Babcock, her first three seasons at the University of Arizona were full of accolades, awards and everything that came with the hype she entered with.
“She has been the epitome of a student-athlete and you know at this level the game can get tough sometimes and she has had her ups and downs and battled through it,” said Wildcats coach Mike Candrea, an eight-time national champion and Olympic gold medal-winning coach. “She has done everything a coach could ask her to do.”
But more often than not in the college game, where freshman pitchers tend to have the upper hand because the book is not out on them and most come in and dominate early, Babcock has had to adapt to her new role with the Wildcats.
Now a senior for the No. 8 team in the nation, Babcock has seen her innings drop and has had to adapt to a new role where she is more of a closer than a full-time starter.
“It’s been a bit tough, but there are five pitchers this year and it is tough to get a consistent role,” Babcock said, “But Estela (Pinon) and Kenzie (Fowler) are doing great right now, so I have to give to them.”
Babcock has a career record of 58-30, including 4-0 in just 25 innings pitched this season heading into this week. In her freshman year, Babcock went a 17-8 with 117 strikeouts in 170.2 inning pitched.
She was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team and at one point during that season was the only healthy pitcher on the team and was in the circle for two weeks straight while Fowler was nursing an injury.
“She came in here and was a very hard thrower and found out really quickly at this level, that you have got to have movement,” Candrea said. “You can’t just have speed and she has worked very hard at developing more movement and a good off-speed pitch and not being so one dimensional.
“She had that success because no one has seen you before, once people start seeing you frequently in the conference, then it seems like every year in the conference, you have to re-invent yourself.”
And that she did. Babcock had her best season for the Wildcats during her sophomore year. She went 21-10 with 23 complete games (including a complete game victory over then-No. 1 California) and seven shutouts, 164 strikeouts and just 100 walks.
During that season she also pitched a 5-inning no-hitter against the College of Charleston.
“I’ve gotten better as a pitcher, but just haven’t got the playing time,” said Babcock, whose team remained perfect at home this season with a thrilling 10 inning win over Arizona State on Sunday. “I’ve definitely tried to get more movement instead of just throwing hard and adding a change-up has been huge.
“It definitely takes a lot of time.”
Babcock will graduate in December with a degree in sports management and while the job offers are likely to flow in, she hasn’t ruled out playing professionally.
She recently was extended an invitation to go play in Italy over the summer but had to turn it down … this time.
“Hopefully they ask me again next summer, because I will go for sure,” said Babcock of the six-month pro season.
Babcock was huge in the emergence of the Legacy softball program under coach Dawn Gaffin and she is not quick to forget about where she came from. Not only does she stay in touch with her former coach, but also Rainey Gaffin — now at the University of Tennessee.
“It’s awesome they they are still upholding the tradition and they just keep rolling,” said Babcock.
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