Arizona softball to host Hillenbrand Invitational
Jesse Harper (19) making contact with the ball. The game on May 25th, 2019 resulted in the Wildcats beating Ole Miss 9-1 and advancing to the Women's College World Series.
After a successful weekend in Tempe, the 5-0 Arizona Wildcats will be back in Tucson to host the Hillenbrand Invitational this weekend and play another set of five games. Teams in the tournament include: Bryant University, Long Beach State, Northern Iowa and University of Oklahoma. Following their five-inning win against No. 12 University of Tennessee last weekend, Arizona softball moved up to No. 4 in the country and is lined up to face yet another top ranked opponent, No. 2 Oklahoma. Here's a few things to watch for this weekend.
Offensive expectations this weekend
Arizona is looking to keep its offense hot after they racked up 41 runs at the Kajikawa Classic. Seniors Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza and Jessie Harper each hit two home runs while Reyna Carranco hit one to make up for half of the team’s weekend total of 10 home runs.
“I think for the first weekend, it was a good performance. I thought we kind of showed a little bit about our depth,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “For the first weekend, I would not say that we saw tremendously great pitching, but still, I thought for the first weekend we swung the bats fairly well.”
Freshman Isabella Dayton was also able to contribute to the home run count when she picked up her first career hit and home run against Western Michigan.
“[Dayton's] got some power,” Candrea said. “When she squares a ball up, she can hit it a long way. So, that was nice to see, and I think down the road will be really beneficial because she’s a person that can lay a bunt down … and she’s got some power.”
Possible starters in game against Oklahoma
The Wildcats may opt to start one of their ace senior pitchers. Senior Alyssa Denham picked up two wins in the Kajikawa Classic, one of which includes the shutout win against Tennessee. At the Arizona softball press conference on Tuesday, Denham was asked about facing the Sooners so early in the season.
“I think it’s going to be a great challenge, but I mean we just had some really good challenges this past weekend," Denham said. "I think the main thing is not playing the ‘name game’ and just going right at [Oklahoma]."
The other senior option for Arizona would be Mariah Lopez, who transferred from the University of Oklahoma. Lopez finished last weekend with three victories and a 0.60 ERA. In the event that Lopez starts against her former teammates, Denham is confident that Lopez would have the upper hand.
“I think that Mariah is going to have the advantage in that situation because I think that she has different stuff this year that they haven’t necessarily seen,” Denham said.
Coach Candrea hasn’t decided yet who will start in the circle, but he holds confidence in Lopez’s abilities as well.
“Right now, I think she’s feeling good about herself and what she brings to the table," Candrea said. "If she’s in the circle, then she’s gonna give us everything she has."
The Wildcats last faced off against Oklahoma last season on Feb. 23, 2019. After a tight pitchers’ duel between Taylor McQuillin and Oklahoma’s Giselle Juarez, the Wildcats came up short in a 1-2 finish. While McQuillin graduated, Glendale, Ariz. native Juarez has returned to Oklahoma for one more season. With Arizona’s strong pitching rotation, another duel may be expected this Saturday.
The Wildcats’ first home game of the season will begin at 2:00 p.m. against Long Beach State, which will be followed by a 4:30 p.m. game against Northern Iowa.
Follow Hannah Togia on Twitter