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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Softball opens season with sweep of Oklahoma State

The+Arizona+softball+team+revels+in+its+4-3+win+in+extra+innings+against+Oklahoma+State+at+Hillenbrand+Stadium+on+Sunday.+Arizona+swept+the+Cowgirls+over+the+season-opening%2C+three-game+series.
Jordan Glenn

The Arizona softball team revels in its 4-3 win in extra innings against Oklahoma State at Hillenbrand Stadium on Sunday. Arizona swept the Cowgirls over the season-opening, three-game series.

The weekend started and ended with a bang for the No. 14 Arizona softball team as the Wildcats swept a three-game series against Oklahoma State at home to open the 2015 season. Arizona (3-0) started the weekend by winning 12-2 in a run-ruled victory on Friday and ended by winning a dramatic extra innings game 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Pinch hitter Ashleigh Hughes remained on the bench for the entirety of the game before coming up to pinch hit in the bottom of the eighth inning with two on and two outs. The freshman quickly saw two strikes cross the plate, and Arizona head coach Mike Candrea called time.

Candrea said Oklahoma State was pitching away from the lefty Hughes, and he told her to “swing away.”

Hughes smacked a two-run triple to deep left field on Arizona’s final strike and was mobbed by teammates after the winning run came in.

“I just, I can’t — the moment is unreal,” Hughes said. “The team fought to the end, and I couldn’t have done it without the support and the cheers. The whole team was crazy.”

While Hughes was the hero, the Arizona pitching staff was the reason she even got a shot to win the game. Pitchers Nancy Bowling, Siera Phillips and Trish Parks combined to hold the Cowgirls to five hits over eight innings.

Parks, a freshman, pitched four innings, secured her second win in the team’s first three games and scored the game-tying run in the eighth inning.

Parks carried over the momentum gained during her complete game shutout on Saturday. The freshman from Chino, Calif., struck out just three but only put three Cowgirls on base and retired 18 of the first 19 batters she faced during the second game of the three-game series.

Not to mention she helped herself at the dish by driving in two of Arizona’s five runs on the day.

Candrea said the freshmen have made huge impacts already and increased the team’s depth this season.

“We have a lot of flexibility in some of the things that we can do this year,” Candrea said. “That’s because of what Mandie [Perez], [Chelsea] Suitos, and then in centerfield with Eva [Watson], [Alexis] Dotson and Ashleigh Hughes — you got lots of versatility.”

That versatility was on display during the 12-2 Arizona victory in the season-opener on Friday night. The Wildcats jumped out with six runs in each of the second and third innings and never looked back.

Much to the dismay of the Cowgirls, Parks, Katiyana Mauga and Kellie Fox all went yard during those two innings and chased Oklahoma State starter Brandi Needham from the game after the third inning.

In the same game, Parks hit a three-run homer in her first collegiate at-bat and struck out the first batter she faced while pitching. The all-around performance highlighted by Parks ended the first game of the season in just 1:43 of real time.

After that victory, Parks said she never could have imagined an opening day like that.

“For my first hit in college, I probably wouldn’t have thought that, but it felt really good,” Parks said.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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