2024 Candrea Classic

UNT Softball Gets Season Going At 2024 Candrea Classic

UNT Softball Gets Season Going At 2024 Candrea Classic

Here’s a look at all you need to know about the 2024 Candrea Classic, with neutral-site games, including North Texas, being streamed live on FloSoftball.

Jan 26, 2024 by Briar Napier
UNT Softball Gets Season Going At 2024 Candrea Classic

Mike Candrea made the Arizona desert into a college softball fortress with his historic, decades-long tenure as leader of the Wildcats.

Now, with the annual event named after him entering its third year, Tucson will once again be a showcase for some high-level softball next month when the 2024 season gets underway.

Here’s a look at all you need to know ahead of the 2024 Candrea Classic (Feb. 8-11), with neutral-site games being streamed live on FloSoftball as part of its wide-ranging coverage of college softball.

What Teams Are Playing In The Candrea Classic?

  • Arizona*
  • North Texas
  • Northern Colorado
  • Utah Tech
  • Lipscomb

*FloSoftball will not broadcast Arizona’s games in the Candrea Classic.

Hosted by Arizona, four mid-major teams—North Texas, Northern Colorado, Utah Tech and Lipscomb—will join the Wildcats in the desert for the 2024 Candrea Classic. 

If making the NCAA Tournament is your main measure of success for a softball program, Northern Colorado comes to Tucson this year coming off the most successful season of the quartet of schools listed—and that’s including Arizona, which missed the tourney for the first time since 1986. 

The Bears won the Big Sky Conference tournament title in 2023 and qualified for a regional for the first time in program history. 

If you’re looking for the outright best mid-major team in the Candrea Classic, North Texas may be the team you’re looking for. 

The Mean Green (competing in their inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference in 2024) have won at least 35 games in all four full seasons Rodney DeLong has been the coach, making a regional appearance in 2022 and just missing out on back-to-back trips last year, after losing in the Conference USA tournament final. 

Utah Tech also won 35 games but was eliminated in the Western Athletic Conference tournament. The Trailblazers lost a lot of firepower from a year ago that they must replace, too. 

Lipscomb, playing in the Atlantic Sun Conference, went 21-29 in 2023 and did not qualify for the ASUN Softball Championship.

Players To Watch

Kailey Gamble, IF, North Texas

The American Athletic Conference will be a step up in competition for the Mean Green, but the transition gets a little easier with players such as Gamble swinging for the fences. 

The Oklahoma native has had two consecutive seasons of at least a .315 average, 16 home runs and 44 RBIs. Gamble was named a two-time All-Conference USA first-team selection, and is UNT’s best bet to make another all-conference first team in the program’s new league. 

Very disciplined at the plate (her 37 walks last season were the most in a single season in program history), Gamble currently ranks in the top 10 all-time at North Texas in a variety of offensive statistics—including home runs and RBIs.

The Mean Green expect to keep their strong stretch of success going, even outside the CUSA, and with Gamble leading the charge, they’ll be in good hands as they adjust to plenty of new surroundings in 2024. 

Alyssa Wenzel, OF, Northern Colorado

All three of Northern Colorado’s All-Big Sky first-team selections from a season ago (Wenzel, outfielder Lauren Strathearn and pitcher Erin Caviness) are back for 2024, and they’re determined to ensure that the Bears’ epic run to the regional round last year wasn’t just a one-off, but the start of something great in UNC softball lore. 

Wenzel, now a senior, was the driving force in the lineup behind the Bears’ charge in the postseason. 

Leading the team with a .372 average, 30 RBIs and .537 slugging percentage, the California native is as consistent as they come, batting over .300 for four straight seasons in Greeley and making history as the first Northern Colorado player with an RBI in the NCAA Tournament, doing so with a double against No. 7-seeded Washington in the Bears’ regional opener. 

Will lightning strike twice for UNC? 

After last year’s late surge, anything is possible, but Wenzel’s dependent nature—and knowledge of what it takes to get to the NCAA Tournament—makes a second straight trip a little bit more plausible.

Sauren Garton, RHP, Utah Tech

A solid mid-major squad for most of the 2023 season, much of Utah Tech’s core is gone—including WAC Player of the Year Shea Clements, WAC Pitcher of the Year Kate Dolinski and WAC Freshman of the Year Tanya Windle—leaving a daunting coaching challenge for reigning WAC Coach of the Year Randy Simkins. 

Fortunately, the dropoff at pitcher from Dolinski to Garton—likely the Trailblazers’ new top ace—isn't as wide as you may think. In fact, there may not be any decline at all. 

Dolinski and Garton were nearly even in innings pitched (115 1/3 to 114 2/3, respectively), and Garton won more games (13 to 12), had a lower ERA (2.81 to 4.07) and recorded more strikeouts (76 to 69) across the course of the season, yet was only named a second-team All-WAC selection. 

With the door clearly open now to be the undisputed No. 1 starter on the Trailblazers’ staff, Garton, based on her production last season, should be more than ready to take advantage of her opportunity.    

How To Watch The 2024 Candrea Classic

Watch the 2024 Candrea Classic on FloSoftball and the FloSports app.

FloSoftball will be streaming several NCAA Division I college softball tournaments, including the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, THE Spring Games and the Mark Campbell Collegiate Invitational.

2024 Candrea Classic Schedule

All times Eastern

*FloSoftball will not broadcast Arizona’s games in the Candrea Classic.

Thursday, Feb. 8:

  • Arizona vs. Utah Tech at 6 p.m. ET*
  • Arizona vs. Northern Colorado at 8 p.m. ET*

Friday, Feb. 9:

  • Northern Colorado vs. Lipscomb at 11 a.m. ET
  • Utah Tech vs. Northern Colorado at 1 p.m. ET
  • North Texas vs. Utah Tech at 3 p.m. ET
  • Arizona vs. Lipscomb at 6 p.m. ET*
  • Arizona vs. North Texas at 8 p.m. ET*

Saturday, Feb. 10:

  • Lipscomb vs. Utah Tech at 11 a.m. ET
  • Northern Colorado vs. Lipscomb at 1 p.m. ET
  • North Texas vs. Utah Tech at 3 p.m. ET
  • Arizona vs. North Texas at 6 p.m. ET*

Sunday, Feb. 11:

  • Lipscomb vs. North Texas at 10:30 a.m. ET
  • Northern Colorado vs. North Texas at 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Arizona vs. Northern Colorado at 3 p.m. ET*

Who Is Mike Candrea?

If you ask that question around anyone associated with Arizona softball, you may get some funny looks. That’s because to many, Candrea is Arizona softball and what it stands for. 

No coach in college softball history has led a program to more national championships than Candrea, whose Wildcats teams won it all at the Women’s College World Series eight times in 24 trips. 

Upon his retirement in 2021, Candrea was the winningest coach in college softball history with 1,674 victories (now-retired Michigan coach Carol Hutchins has since passed him) and twice coached the United States' national softball team at the Olympics, helping it win gold in Athens in 2004 and silver in Beijing in 2008. 

Now 68, Candrea recently was tabbed for a new challenge at Arizona; the school announced that athletic director Dave Heeke was out after seven years at the helm, with Candrea imminently taking over as interim AD—the first administrative role of his career.

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