The perfect measuring stick for softball
Fresh off a three-game sweep of Southern Mississippi to open the season, the No. 24 Arizona softball team prepares to host the Hillenbrand Invitational from today through Sunday.
“I think we’re doing a lot better than we have been,” UA head coach Mike Candrea said. “We just have to continue to stay with the process and continue to get better.”
The 17th Hillenbrand Invitational brings together teams from all over the country and gives the Wildcats considerable game experience over the next four days.
Those participating include No. 4 Alabama, New Mexico, Tennessee State and Grand Canyon.
Junior utility Hallie Wilson tags Southern Mississippi's player during UA's first game of the season against Southern Mississippi at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on Friday. UA won 9-0.
Georgia Tech was penciled in to be a participant, but due to the poor weather in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets erased their plans to come to Tucson.
The Wildcats will play each team in the invitational at least once for a grand total of six games.
Arizona’s first matchup is against Grand Canyon (2-3) today at 6 p.m. at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium. The Antelopes arrive on the heels of a 2-3 record in the Red Dirt Classic in St. George, Utah.
In its most recent game, Grand Canyon defeated Southern Utah behind the pitching and hitting of Stephani Pesqueira, who pitched five innings and hit a grand slam to boot.
However, the Antelopes were outscored 29-26 in their first five games and could struggle to outscore the potent Arizona offense.
In their first three games, the Wildcats outscored Southern Miss by 33 runs. They will look to sustain their hot start against the Antelopes.
Leading the offensive charge for Arizona is redshirt junior shortstop Kellie Fox, who is batting .556 with one home run and 10 runs batted in through the first three games.
“I’m having a blast,” Fox said. “Playing the sport I love every single day and coming out to compete is my favorite thing to do.”
Not only is the offense fueling the team, but the pitching staff is also off to a hot start. In the first three games the staff has combined for 15 innings, seven hits allowed, two runs allowed, 20 strikeouts and a batting average against of .137.
A huge factor behind the pitching dominance is the return of redshirt senior Kenzie Fowler. In her two games pitched this season, Fowler is 1-0 with six innings pitched and seven strikeouts.
She pitched the first and third games of the season and spoke on her performance during her return to the team.
“I guess you could say I was a little too excited to be out here. … I was just really excited to be back,” Fowler said.
Looking forward, the Wildcats play New Mexico at 4 p.m. MST on Friday and Tennessee State at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Both games will be at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium and will be streamed live on Pac-12.com.
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555