A trip to Tucson turns into a transfer for Miranda Stoddard

Courtesy of Arizona Athletics

When Caitlin Lowe called Arizona softball’s academic advisor, she was told that if this was going to happen, it had to happen that afternoon. Luckily, Miranda Stoddard, an Anaheim, Calif. native, was on her way to Tucson at that very moment to visit her boyfriend, who is a manager for the Wildcats’ volleyball team.

Lowe got the compliance visit cleared while Stoddard was approaching and before the two even had a conversation about her joining the Arizona roster, Lowe sent her straight to the academic advisor to ensure her transfer was even possible. Then finally after one hectic day, Lowe and Stoddard sat down to get to know one another.

“I talked to her for about an hour and she was a great person,” Lowe said. “Then I asked her ‘Are we doing this?’ and she said ‘Yeah.’ It’s just crazy. Thank goodness that we had someone like her land in our lap. I am really happy to have her as part of the family.”

How did Stoddard, who leads the team in innings pitched heading into the Oregon series, even start the process of donning one of the most iconic uniforms in collegiate softball?

If you’re familiar, the graduate student started her career as a two-way player at Kentucky. Stoddard graduated early from Kentucky and decided not to play what would’ve been her senior season in 2023. Instead, she started an IT job back home in California.

Shortly after starting the next chapter of her life, Stoddard got a text from her high school coach saying that a local recreational league was looking for an instructor to lead pitching clinics for them. She agreed and started working with young girls. As she got to teach these girls who had inspirations of being in the same place Stoddard once was, it rekindled the fire she had for the sport.

“I had zero intention of ever coming back to play softball. I had completed signed-off and wasn’t paying any attention to the 2023 season,” Stoddard said. “I had really forgotten why I started playing softball in the first place. I saw these girls wanting to get better and put in extra work, it reminded me that I used to be one of them and that I’d do anything to play.”

Stoddard always knew she wanted to go back to school, and although her dad wished she would consider playing again, it never crossed her mind until she started working as an instructor. She was initially hesitant because once word got out she wanted to play again, it’d be out with plenty of being wanting to get Stoddard on campus.

She wanted to be thorough with this decision because she knew it would entail a lot if she played again. Stoddard took her time to weigh her choices before officially entering the transfer portal.

Stoddard reached out to the great Jenny Dalton-Hill, whose husband is a deputy AD at Kentucky, for advice as the two had formed a relationship while she was in Lexington. After feeling good about her decision and officially putting her IT career on hold to finish her softball one, Stoddard asked Dalton-Hill if she could get in touch with her alma mater and see if Lowe had any interest.

Lowe said that when she talked to Dalton-Hill, she advocated taking Stoddard in and when Dalton-Hill says anything, Lowe typically listens.

“When I get a call from Jenny and she says ‘you got to take this kid’ I said, ‘yeah, let’s do it,” Lowe said.

The next step was getting back into shape. Stoddard last played in the 2022 postseason. She went from what felt like the peak of her powers to simply wanting to throw hard without completely exerting herself.

“At first it was really difficult,” Stoddard said. “I felt like I was playing catchup and just trying to stay above water especially knowing what I’m capable of. Last time I played I was at the top of my game. I was five, seven MPH slower than I was, I wasn’t consistent in hitting my spots, my ball wasn’t breaking. Those things were frustrating of course. Bit by bit those things started to come back and so did my confidence.”

Stoddard is on pace to nearly throw as many innings as she did in her Kentucky career. Courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Despite Arizona squaring off in an early season matchup with Kentucky in 2022, Lowe didn’t know as much about Stoddard the pitcher, more the hitter and third baseman that blasted 18 home runs during her career. Nevertheless, Stoddard made an early impression on Lowe with her ability to navigate her road back to playing.

“The fall was rough for her. She got hit a lot. I think it could’ve gone one of two ways. She could’ve said this wasn’t a good idea, I’m not in shape and could’ve chosen not to go to work but in January she became a different person,” Lowe said. “She used the (winter)┬ábreak to understand what she needed to do and she put her head down and went to work.”

Arizona’s staff never planned to have Stoddard, who has already surpassed a career-high in innings (101.1), throw as much as she has this season. Lowe loved the idea of having seven arms on staff but then the Arizona pitchers got hit with the injury bug. Neither Devyn Netz nor Sydney Somerndike have been able to throw this season. Arizona announced before its first game that highly-touted freshman Ryan Maddox would miss the season with a foot injury. The innings have fallen mostly on Stoddard and Aissa Silva.

“I don’t think we realized how big of a blessing it was going to be until February and March rolled around,” Lowe said. “January we were giving the team injury updates. It was crazy.”

Lowe praised Stoddard’s leadership as well. She offers the team a perspective that no one else has knowing she has put the game down. That’s helped shape other’s mindset of giving your all for the game. However, Stoddard’s simple ability to be available to pitch is one reason Arizona should be back in the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus.

Stoddard never imagined she’d be at Arizona. But she couldn’t be more grateful that it all came together.

“I’m so happy,” she said. “This has been amazing how things have worked out. There is no doubt in my mind that this is what I should be doing right now. To not only be playing again but also get the opportunity to win and succeed, and have so much fun has been really great.”

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