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Throughout the season, members of the Virginia softball team will blog about being on the road and recent games, activities and news in and around the softball world. Fifth-year co-captain Meghan O’Leary is up first, recapping the team’s recent visit to Tempe, Ariz., for its season-opening tournament.

The softball team headed West to the “Grand Canyon State” of Arizona for our season-opening weekend at the Kajiwaka Classic in Tempe. We started early Friday morning with a short practice to shake the jet-lag and first game jitters before playing Southern Utah that afternoon. The weather was beautiful with a warm Arizona sun and cool desert air.

Although the opening game against Southern Utah wasn’t a victory (5-3), we had some great things happen. Lindsey Preuss and Carly Winger both notched their first home runsWinger bringing me in with her shot over the right centerfield fenceand we came out with pretty solid defense. That night our game against Arizona State University was rained out and moved to early the next morning.

Day two of the Classic was a long day with three games, starting early in the morning. We warmed up under the lights as the sun rose over the ASU softball stadium for our first game of the day against Arizona State. It was a tough game against the fifth-ranked Sun Devils.

After refueling on pita sandwiches at “Extreme Pita” on the ASU Campus, we returned to the fields to face Oklahoma State and then Oregon State back-to-back. Taking Oklahoma State into extra innings, we fought long and hard behind pitcher Karla Wilburn for all 10 innings. In the top of the 10th, the Cowgirls put up two runs and clinched the win.

After a quick 10 minute rest we went straight into our game against the No.25 Oregon State Beavers. We jumped out to a 6-0 lead after a “bomb” of a grand slam by Sarah Tacke. Oregon State battled back tying the game in the bottom of the sixth inning before taking the lead to win in the seventh inning. That game was perhaps the toughest loss on the weekend because we truly had the victory but just couldn’t seal the win. The evening closed with a “fiesta” put on by several of the parents that had traveled to Arizona. We had amazing Mexican food and a real piata, enjoying the company of our family and fans at a nearby park.

The next morning we packed up the buses for our last game of the tournament against Western Michigan. Whether it was fatigue or whatever else, our offense was not as fierce and dynamic as it had been in the previous games and we went scoreless, losing 3-0. First-year pitcher Allee Rife had her first career start and had some great innings against the Broncos, holding them to just two hits.

The trip home was a long one with delays first in Phoenix and then in Atlanta due to stormy weather. We finally made it back to Charlottesville early Monday morning, tired from a long weekendand perhaps frustrated from the losses, but excited about the amazing potential our season would hold. We definitely had moments of greatness and will only expand on those to put together more great innings, and begin to add up the wins toward a successful season.

-Meghan O’Leary

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