PEORIA, Ill. -- For the second consecutive year the Bradley softball team will open the season in Tempe, Ariz., taking part in the 2012 Kajikawa Classic Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Braves open tournament play Friday at 9:30 a.m. (CST) against UC Santa Barbara.
A year removed from making the program's first trip to the Grand Canyon State, fourth-year BU head coach Amy Hayes return to the Phoenix, Ariz., area for the 2012 Kajikawa Classic, where Bradley will square off against UC Santa Barbara, Idaho State, #3 California, Western Michigan and McNeese State during the three-day event.
The opening weekend features two games against teams which advanced to the NCAA Tournament, including third-ranked and 2011 College World Series participant California, and two other squads which finished the 2011 season with 27 or more victories.
Bradley begins play Friday at 9:30 a.m. (CST) against UC Santa Barbara at the Tempe Sports Complex (8401 St. Hardy Drive, Tempe, Ariz.). The Braves and Gauchos will be meeting for the first time since UCSB swept a doubleheader from BU in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2000. UCSB finished 27-26 last year and is the first of two Big West Conference teams on the 2012 slate for BU.
The opening day of the season also includes a rematch with Idaho State at 5 p.m. (CST). Bradley played two games against the Bengals last year in Fresno, Calif., winning both games.
Saturday's action features two games against 2011 NCAA Tournament participants, starting with a 10 a.m. (CST) contest against #3 California. The Golden Bears and Braves met last year in Fresno, Calif., before Cal went on to finish the year with a 45-13 record and post a 1-2 record at last year's Women's College World Series.
The game against Cal will be Bradley's lone game at Arizona State's Farrington Stadium. California is the highest ranked opponent since the Braves played at #3 Missouri on March 14, 2000 and BU will be looking for its first win against a top-25 team since topping 20th-ranked DePaul on May 15, 2009.
Bradley takes on preseason Mid-American Conference West Division favorite Western Michigan Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (CST). The Broncos advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2011 after claiming the MAC West regular-season title with a 14-6 league record and also claimed the 2011 MAC Tournament championship. The Braves are 4-1 all-time against Western Michigan after sweeping a doubleheader from the Broncos in March 2004.
The weekend concludes Sunday with a noon (CST) game against McNeese State. The Cowgirls were 31-29 and finished fourth in the final Southland Conference league standings. First-year Bradley assistant coach Chris Malveaux was head coach at McNeese State from 2005-08.
Live stats for Saturday's matchup with California will be available at BradleyBraves.com.