Arizona softball hosts Hillenbrand Invitational this weekend
This weekend, Arizona softball hosts the 17th Hillenbrand Invitational, a five-team, three-day, 15-game tournament in which Arizona will play five games.
Nebraska (5-0), Drake (4-1), Southern Utah (1-4), Purdue (2-3) and Utah State (0-5) will participate in the invitational. No. 19 UA (3-2) has an all-time record of 79-3 in the Hillenbrand Invitational.
“I think it’s a good field, and it’s definitely a good challenge,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “It’s good to be at home and see what we can do here.”
On Friday, Arizona opens the home schedule with Nebraska at 4 p.m., followed by Drake at about 6 p.m.
“Nebraska’s a very good team, and it’ll be a very formidable opponent,” Candrea said. “They’re hitting about .395 coming in, so they swing the bats — usually big kids, lots of power.
“Drake is a very good, well coached team — can play with anyone,” Candrea said.
Arizona’s last loss in the tournament was to Creighton in 2009, 6-0.
On Saturday, the Wildcats play Southern Utah at 4 p.m., then Purdue at 6 p.m.
“I’m really excited because my family gets to come and watch,” freshman second baseman Mandie Perez said. “Besides fall, this is going to be my real first home game.”
On Sunday, the Wildcats wrap up the tournament with Utah State at 1 p.m.
Arizona is 563-61 all-time at Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona has averaged over 2,000 fans the past four seasons, with 2,328 last year, and set the NCAA record for attendance in 2011.
Candrea employed the “show, don’t tell” approach to Hillenbrand Stadium and Arizona’s fanbase when recruiting Perez, having her attend a couple games rather than hyping the team.
“He didn’t make it that big a deal because I think he just wanted to show so I could see how much of a big deal it is,” Perez said.
It will be a homecoming weekend for Nebraska sophomore infielder Mattie Fowler, the sister of Arizona senior pitcher Kenzie Fowler, though Kenzie will miss the tournament due to injury.
Candrea said the UA invite teams by sending out e-mails to those interested, adding that Nebraska will probably come, because of Mattie.
“A lot of times you have teams like that that have a kid from Tucson that wants to come back to Tucson,” Candrea said.
“Scheduling’s getting to be a real dilemma trying to get teams in here, and Tucson’s not the easiest place to fly into and so we’re fortunate that we have this field filled, and it’s a good field.”