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Softball drops Drake in Hillenbrand Invitational opener

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Kyle Hansen

Arizona softball utility Hallie Wilson (5) runs home to her teammates after hitting her first home run of the season during Arizona’s 6-1 win against Drake during the opening game of the Hillenbrand Invitational at Hillenbrand Stadium on Thursday. Wilson and the Wildcats have five more games over the weekend. 

A windy night did nothing to slow down Arizona softball’s offensive prowess as the No. 14 Wildcats (4-0) defeated Drake 6-1 in the opening game of the Hillenbrand Invitational. 

Arizona’s leadoff batter Hallie Wilson started off the night with a slam to right field, taking advantage of a strong breeze to that part of the field. It was the first home run of the season for Wilson, who entered the game batting .100 but boosted up her average by going 3-3. 

“After the first three games, everybody is like, ‘Oh, she is going to slump,’” Wilson said. “But in reality, it’s early in the season, so I’m just trying to make adjustments.”

Drake starting pitcher Laura Brewer prevented any more early damage until a four-run third-inning rally broke the game open for the Wildcats. 

A Kellie Fox sacrifice fly brought home Eva Watson to make it 2-0. Then with two outs, Chelsea Goodacre’s RBI single up the middle scored Wilson. 

Slugger Katiyana Mauga closed out the rally with her second home run of the year — a two-run shot to center. 

The next inning, the Wildcats added one more to the board as Wilson scored in Watson on a sneak bunt. With the wind blowing so strong, Arizona turned to a small-ball approach instead of looking for homers. 

“We took batting practice on the field which was a good thing because we kind of saw where the ball was carrying around,” said Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea. “When you get wind like that, the game is played on the ground, but we hit a couple into the wind that we weren’t trying to.” 

UA pitcher Trish Parks made her first career start on the mound and kept Drake hitless through 3 1/3 innings. The Bulldogs finally got to the freshman in the fourth inning, with their lone run coming off back-to-back UA infield errors. 

By not allowing an earned run over five innings, Parks’ ERA dropped to 0.61 on the season.

Siera Phillips replaced Parks in the sixth inning and recorded the final six outs without much drama. The two Arizona pitchers limited Drake to only three hits on the night. 

The Hillenbrand Invitational continues on Friday as the Wildcats host Loyola Marymount at 4 p.m. and Wright State at 6 p.m. 

Loyola Marymount is off to a 2-1 start this season with a pair of wins over Northwestern State before falling to Sacramento State. Wright State kicks off its campaign after going 19-32 last year. 

On Saturday, Arizona plays San Jose State (4-2) and Loyola Chicago (2-2) in a late-afternoon double-header that features offensive standouts from both opponents. 

San Jose State infielder Sharon-Renae Estrada won Mountain West Player of the Week honors by hitting five home runs. 

Meanwhile, Hannah Jenkins of Loyola Chicago was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week after batting .667 in the Ramblers’ four games. 

Arizona wraps up the tournament with a 1 p.m. Sunday rematch against Drake. By defeating the Bulldogs Thursday, Arizona is now 85-3 all-time in the Invitational and has not lost since 2009.

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