canada africa partner reservation Leadoff LF Kennedy starred throughout for Arizona softball

Leadoff LF Kennedy starred throughout for Arizona softball


Aidan Wohl Special to the Arizona Daily Star

Pitching for top recruit Dakota Kennedy in travel ball in Sacramento, California, wasn’t one of Aissa Silva’s fondest memories.

But now they’re on the same side: the key components of a UA softball team ready to put the one-year hiatus from the NCAA Tournament in the rearview mirror.

“I couldn’t ask for a better teammate,” Silva said of Kennedy.

A star teammate isn’t the only thing Kennedy has going for her. The second-year outfielder has proven to be a reliable, if not dominant, player. She provided a spark as one of the Widlcats’ leading hitters at the plate and anchors the outfield as Arizona (33-15-1, 13-11 Pac-12) looks to make noise in the Pac-12 Tournament this week at Stanford.

With Kennedy at the top of the rankings this season, Arizona coach Caitlin Lowe has seen the sophomore’s play turn to freshman Regan Shockey, who bats right behind her and plays right next to Kennedy in the outfield.

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Arizona’s Dakota Kennedy (4) comes home on her second round-tripper of the night during the Wildcats’ 3-2 win over Grand Canyon last Tuesday at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily star

“I think Regan is building on it in her own quiet way,” Lowe said.

Arizona outfielder Dakota Kennedy makes a long run into deep foul territory to get into action in the sixth inning of the Wildcats’ 3-2 victory over Grand Canyon.

Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily star

In the Wildcats’ final regular season game of the season, Tuesday night against Grand Canyon, Kennedy had perhaps her best all-around game as a Wildcat. She was a perfect 4 for 4 from the plate with two home runs and a pair of notable catches in the outfield in a 3-2 win over the Antelopes.

“She has always been a great player. I think she just understands the game better now and is just ready for it. Silva said of Kennedy’s progress over the years.

Kennedy was “phenomenal” in the win over GCU, according to Lowe, who raved about the consistency and willingness of her starting left fielders no matter the circumstances.

“She shows up for us every day, and I think that’s the most important thing,” Lowe said. “She does everything she can every day to play this game.”

As a freshman last season, Kennedy didn’t hesitate to make an immediate impact on the team, leading the Wildcats with a .394 batting average in conference play. She earned Pac-12 All-Freshman honors.

With Kennedy being named preseason All-Pac-12 ahead of the 2024 campaign, despite knowing other teams now have film on her from last season, Kennedy has made bigger strides in Year 2. She has been a catalyst for Arizona with a team-best OPS (1.172) and the UA’s second-best batting average (.397).

Arizona’s Dakota Kennedy gets high-fives after hitting the game-ending RBI single against North Texas in the fifth inning of the Wildcats’ 8-0 win on Feb. 9.

Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily star

“They have film on me,” Kennedy said. ‘I have film about them.

“(I) just do what I have to do and just improve on what I did last year.”

Kennedy is taking on more of a leadership role in the outfield after a season under her belt as the Wildcats’ primary left fielder and currently has a perfect fielding percentage; she is part of an outfield unit that has committed just two errors all season.

Kennedy said she thinks “we have the best outfield in the country” and attributed much of their success to building on each other, as well as the work they have done in practice to cover ground.

“(We) know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Kennedy said. “We just work so well there.”

Kennedy has also made an impact in the classroom at Arizona, where he was recognized as an NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete last year; the award is presented to athletes who achieve a GPA of 3.5 or better. She takes Advanced Placement classes at Sheldon High School – located near Sacramento in Vineyard, California – and has always been interested in excelling academically.

Arizona outfielder Dakota Kennedy runs after a hit in the Wildcats’ win over North Texas on Feb. 10 as part of the Candrea Classic at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily star

During her two years at the UA so far, Kennedy has studied criminal justice, noting her interest in law and government.

“I definitely see myself doing something like this in the future,” she says.

Off the books — it is finals week on the UA campus, after all — Kennedy’s biggest test yet could come in the Pac-12 Tournament. The tournament begins Wednesday, but the No. 20 Wildcats — winners of 11 of their last 15 games, three of which were against nationally ranked teams — begin the tournament Thursday. That’s a change from last year, when Arizona faced ASU in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 play-in game against rival ASU, with the tournament taking place in Tucson at Hillenbrand Stadium.

While Arizona didn’t play this weekend as the rest of the Pac-12 programs concluded their regular seasons, UA finished with the tournament’s fifth seed. It plays No. 4 seed Washington on Thursday at 6:30 PM on Pac-12 Network. The Huskies took two of three from the Wildcats in a mid-March series at Hillenbrand.

The Wildcats will certainly lean on Kennedy’s bat, glove and leadership as they look to continue their recent surge with NCAA Tournament play also on the horizon.

“We will be ready for whatever comes our way,” Kennedy said.

Arizona’s left fielder Dakota Kennedy (4) goes horizontal to pick up a sinking liner in the hole from Lipscomb’s Brenna Sherman (00) and finish the Bison in fourth in their game on day two of the Candrea Classic at Hillenbrand Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., February 9, 2024.

Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily star

No. No. 19 Arizona picked up an 8-4 road victory over No. 9 UCLA on Saturday, April 27. Allie Skaggs led the way offensively for the Wildcats, going 3-for-4 with 4 RBI, while Dakota Kennedy ignited the three-run home run in the sixth inning before later ending the bottom half of the frame with a diving catch in the left field. (Pac-12 YouTube)