Arizona softball responds in Hillenbrand Invitational
The Wildcats swept the Hillenbrand Invitational, winning all five games, despite struggling at last weekend’s Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.
They beat Utah State 13-1 in five innings on Sunday, Southern Utah and Purdue on Saturday and Nebraska and Drake on Friday to bring their record to 8-2.
“I think this weekend, we put a few more pieces of the puzzle together,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “I think that’s the name of the game at this time of the year. We came back from behind this week, shutout Nebraska and did what we had to do to win. I was very impressed. We always found a way to win.”
Junior Estela Piñon and freshman Nancy Bowling split the pitching duties against Utah State. Piñon went 2.2 innings, giving up one earned run on three hits while striking out six, and Bowling made her first relief appearance of the season, pitching 2.1 innings while allowing one hit and striking out three. Sophomore Chelsea Suitos and junior Kelsey Rodriguez led the Wildcat offense, each collecting two hits and scoring three runs.
On Saturday, the Wildcats beat Southern Utah 6-3 and then rallied to come from behind to defeat Purdue 5-4, in the second game of the double-header. Both wins came on behalf of complete games thrown by Piñon and Shelby Babcock, respectively.
Against Southern Utah, Piñon struck out three, gave up four hits and walked one. She became more dominant as the game progressed, not allowing a single baserunner in the sixth or seventh innings.
Offense was provided by sophomore Chelsea Goodacre and freshmen Lauren Young and Courtney Rodriguez. Rodriguez struck first for Arizona, as she singled in Goodacre from second, breaking the scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning.
In the second game of the double header, Babcock recorded a complete game, after falling behind early to Purdue and having to rely on the UA’s offense.
Bowling was the designated player for the game and provided an early 3-2 lead for the Wildcats after doubling in Rodriguez in the bottom of the first.
“It felt great to be out there,” Bowling said. “I’m so happy to be on the field and contributing to the team’s wins. I’m looking forward to playing the really tough competition like Oklahoma next week. I think I could have performed better this weekend, but I’m looking to improve next week.”
Purdue regained and kept the lead in the third until Arizona pushed back in the bottom of the sixth to complete its comeback.
The Wildcats opened the tournament on Friday, defeating Nebraska 1-0 and Drake 5-3. Babcock opened the tournament in a demanding fashion, pitching a four-hit shutout against the Cornhuskers, who were previously unbeaten. Babcock struck out five and walked two. Although the Wildcats compiled 5 hits, their offense came primarily from Hallie Wilson’s double to center field which scored Suitos in the fourth.
“I was pleased with my performances this weekend,” Babcock said. “We improved and never gave up. We were behind in some games and came back and ended up winning which was very good. We’re looking forward to next weekend, it’s obviously going to be more competitive and we are ready.”
In the second game of the double header, Bowling made her first appearance since suffering a concussion two weeks ago and allowed two runs on three hits while walking one. Piñon struck out five and allowed one unearned run on four hits to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Arizona’s offense was limited to just six hits as they were forced to come from behind, not leading in the game until senior Brigette Del Ponte scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth.
The Wildcats travel to Palm Springs, Calif. for the Cathedral City Classic Thursday, where they will play against Oklahoma, who sent them home in the Super Regionals last year.
“This next weekend going into Palm Springs will be a much stronger field of team and much more of a challenge for us,” Candrea said. “We are going to work hard to manufacture some runs, get ahead of these teams, and compliment our offense with good pitching.”