**NEW** - Watch Southern Utah's games at www.arizonawildcats.com. Games not featuring Arizona can be watch for free here.
CEDAR CITY, Utah - Southern Utah University softball will begin a whirlwind stretch of eight games in four days this weekend when the Thunderbirds travel to Tucson, Arizona and then return to Cedar City on Februray 20.
SUU will take part in the Hillenbrand Invitational hosted by the University of Arizona and face Western Kentucky, UAB, North Dakota and Arizona, Friday through Sunday. Following the tournament, SUU will return to face the Utah State Aggies in a doubleheader at Kathryn Berg Field on Monday afternoon.
The Thunderbirds are averaging a .244 clip at the plate and are led by a trio of .500 hitters, including Mikkel Griffin (.571), Megan Gurski (.500) and Cora Cordova (.500). The SUU pitching staff is currently carrying a 3.50 ERA and 12 strikeouts with five pitchers already seeing action this year.
All of Southern Utah’s upcoming games can be followed via a live stats link on the SUU softball schedule page online at www.suutbirds.com.
Scouting Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky has opened the 2012 season with an overall record of 3-1 with victories over Cleveland State, Winthrop and Tennessee State.
The Hilltoppers are batting .312 from the plate and have averaged six runs per game during their first four games. The run total includes three home runs with the team also aggressive on the base paths with 10 stolen bases on 11 attempts.
In the circle, WKU pitching carries an ERA of 2.66 with 21 strikeouts while holding opposing batters to a .258 average. Emily Rousseau has seen most of the action, throwing 14.1 innings with a team-best 10 strikeouts.
UAB will enter the weekend with an overall record of 3-2, including victories over UMass, Michigan State and Florida International at the FIU Combat Classic last weekend. Each of the games were close as the Blazers have only out scored their opponents 16-14.
UAB batters have hit .220 from the plate with four home runs with runners stealing four bases on six attempts. The pitching staff carries a 2.40 ERA while racking up 37 strikeouts. Leigh Streetman has logged most of the innings, throwing 15.1 innings with 17 strikeouts.
Scouting North Dakota
North Dakota opened its 2012 season with a 3-1 record after victories over Northern Iowa, Drake and Nebraska-Omaha last weekend. UND’s lone defeat came in a 4-0 loss to Western Illinois.
UND is batting .274 at the plate and has totaled 14 runs this season. North Dakota pitchers carry a 3.30 ERA with 39 strikeouts and allow opposing batters to hit .250 at the dish.
Arizona will be the host institution this weekend and will enter with an overall record of 3-3 with wins over McNeese State, Syracuse and CS Northridge. Losses came in one-run defeats to Georgia Tech, Nebraska and Texas A&M.
The Wildcats are batting .329 with two players, Lini Korla and Jessica Spigner, hitting .500 or better with averages of .533 and .500, respectively. Arizona also brings power to the dish with 11 home runs this year as part of the team’s 42 runs this year.
The pitching staff carries an ERA of 3.26 with 41 strikeouts and is led by Shelby Babcock with 26.1 innings pitched and 28 strikeouts. Arizona pitchers have held opponents to a .236 average from the plate.
Scouting Utah State
Utah State will play at the UNLV Louisville Slugger Desert Classic before traveling north on I-15 to face the Thunderbirds on Monday afternoon. The Aggies will enter this weekend with an overall record of 2-2 after victories over North Carolina State and St. John’s.
Utah State has opened the season with a .253 average at the plate, totaling 16 runs and stealing two bases on three attempts. Aggie pitchers have a staff ERA of 4.08 with 26 strikeouts.