Beavers softball handle heat in Tempe

Josh Worden Senior Beat Reporter

The Oregon State softball team made an early statement for the 2016 season in this weekend’s Kajikawa Classic, going 4-1 on the Friday-to-Sunday road trip in Tempe, Ariz.

The fast start to OSU’s season, highlighted by an 8-0 shutout of No. 18 Kentucky on Friday, bodes well for postseason hopes. OSU has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2013 but nearly earned a spot last year with a 26-26 record. OSU beat San Jose State 14-10 in the Classic, followed by the Kentucky game and then a 6-2 win over Cal State Northridge, a 7-3 loss to Cal Poly and an 11-1 rout of New Mexico.

Freshman pitcher Meehra Nelson did not wait long to have her breakout moment, earning wins in each of her three complete games and allowing just three earned runs in 21 and 1/3 innings. Her earned run average so far is at 0.98. Last year OSU’s team ERA was 4.94. Nelson allowed just a .123 batting average in the five games, while senior pitcher Beverly Miller spent eight and 1/3 innings in the circle, going 1-1 in her two starts.

It is early in the season—46 games remain of the schedule’s 51—but OSU’s team batting average of .381 is on pace to shatter the program’s record set last year at .298. Every year that Laura Berg has been the head softball coach, from 2013 to now, OSU has set a new program record in batting average.

Junior first baseman Natalie Hampton, who holds the all-time OSU single-season record for runs batted in with 50, already has 10 RBIs through five games to put her on pace for 102 in the regular season.

At this rate, the Beavers will replace OSU’s all-time records in runs scored (on pace for 429, record is 301), walks (on pace for 255, record is 204) and total bases (on pace for 786, record is 773).

Over the weekend, sophomore shortstop McKenna Arriola led the way offensively in the five games, notching 10 hits, batting .556 and adding two stolen bases. Sophomore outfielder Lovie Lopez went 7-for-13 to join Arriola in the over .500 batting average club.

The Kentucky game gives OSU a resume-building win early in the season, fueled by strong pitching from Nelson. The freshman from Simi Valley, Calif. tossed a complete game shutout, allowing just two hits and striking out five in the 8-0 win.

With the four wins, OSU was right in the mix of the Kajikawa Classic, which was riddled with top-tier teams like No. 4 Oregon, No. 9 Tennessee, No. 18 Kentucky, No. 20 Arizona State, No. 22 California and No. 23 Utah.

Next, the Beavers will head to Las Vegas for another Friday to Sunday road trip, this time in the Wilson/Demarini Classic to face Robert Morris, Hawaii, Wichita State, UC Davis, Boise State and San Jose State.

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