Arizona softball kicks off 2017 with Hillenbrand Invitational

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Stan Liu and Stan Liu | The Daily Wildcat Arizona pitcher Taylor McQuillin (18) throws a pitch at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium in Tucson during the Wildcats' 4-2 loss to the Dukes on Sunday, March 6. McQuillin is a former Gatorade California Player of the Year.

Arizona begins the 2017 season this weekend with the 21st edition of the Hillenbrand Invitational. The No. 10-ranked Wildcats look to start their season off in good fashion as they play five opponents, over the course of the four-day invitational hosted at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.

The Wildcats welcome five opponents to Tucson for the 15-game event. Fordham, Cal State Northridge, No. 21 Baylor, Northwestern and Tulsa round out the field; Arizona will play each team once throughout the weekend.

The Wildcats were dominant during their fall schedule, going 8-0 while outscoring opponents 80-0. The duo of senior Danielle O’Toole and sophomore Taylor McQuillin combined for 40 strikeouts over 27 scoreless innings.

The invitational should serve as an indicator for how the Wildcats stack up against quality opposition, seeing as four other teams in the invitational made last year’s NCAA tournament.

Arizona 8, Fordham 1

The No. 10 Arizona Wildcats faced off with the Fordham Rams at Hillenbrand stadium on Thursday night. The Wildcats started the Hillenbrand Invitational off with an 8-1 win over last year’s Atlantic 10 Conference champions.

It was clear pitcher Danielle O’Toole (1-0) needed time to shake the offseason rust off, and she gave up three straight hits to lead off the game, allowing one earned run.

“It’s my last first game, obviously I’m a little nervous,” O’Toole said when asked about the three singles she gave up to start the game. “Just had to change the game plan a little bit, get on a roll.”

The senior recovered by letting only two Fordham players reach first over the next six innings. The Upland, California, native finished her first outing of the season with nine strikeouts in a complete game win.

Matters only worsened for Fordham when a solo shot by Katiyana Mauga and a pitch-hit RBI double by Tamara Statman firmly put Arizona in front 6-1 after three innings. Rams pitcher Madison Aughinbaugh was pulled after the third, concluding a night in which she allowed five earned runs.

Mauga finished with a game-high two RBI’s and hit her first home run of the season. Mauga is now 19 home runs short of the all-time Arizona record (87 by Stacie Chambers).

Arizona vs. Cal State Northridge Friday @ 5 P.M.

n what will be a difficult tournament overall for the California school, it will give softball fans a chance to see Taylor Glover, who was recently named to the USA Softball Player of the Year list. The senior had an eye-popping .429 batting average, a slugging percentage close to .600 and racked up 22 stolen bases last season.

Arizona vs. Baylor Saturday @ 3 P.M

Make no mistake, the Bears can hang with softball’s best. The team returns almost all of their top offensive players from a year ago, notably Jessie Scroggins who led Baylor in five offensive categories. Having failed to win in five of their last six meetings against the Big 12 opponent, Arizona will look to avoid an early-season slip-up.

Arizona vs. Northwestern Saturday @ 5 P.M.

he Wildcats will face Northwestern right after they face Baylor, and this could be to Northwestern’s advantage. The Big Ten school will have an entire day’s rest before the matchup. Northwestern brings with them speedster Sabrina Rabin who led her team in stole bases (40), hits (69) and runs scored (54) last season. She was an All-Big Ten second team selection.

Arizona vs. Tulsa Sunday @ 12 P.M.

The Wildcats wrap up the weekend with another dangerous mid-major team in the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Much like Fordham, Tulsa brings some talent with it to Tucson this weekend. Twins Maddie and Maggie Withee spearhead the offensive attack. Both hit over .300 last season and combined for 121 hits.

Arizona is 102-3 all-time at the Hillenbrand Invitational. The Wildcats last loss came in 2009 when they were defeated 6-0 by Creighton University.


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