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BYU softball: tough challenge awaits BYU in season opening tournament

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To open the 2017 season, BYU softball travels to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to participate in the 2017 Puerto Vallarta College Challenge against four of the top teams in the nation, including 2016 National Champion Oklahoma.

BYU will play top national programs Nebraska, No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 13 Washington and No. 2 Auburn. On Thursday, Feb. 9, the Cougars play the Huskers at 10 a.m. CST, and the Sooners at 4 p.m. BYU faces Washington on Friday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. CST. The final day of competition on Saturday, Feb. 11, will feature the Cougars against the Tigers at 10 a.m. CST.

The opening game against Nebraska will be televised live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN. Radio broadcast will be available for the Nebraska, Oklahoma and Auburn games. Links for radio and live stats can be found on the BYU softball schedule page.

All games will be played at Nancy Almaraz Stadium in Puerto Vallarta. The field is just less than a quarter mile from the beach.

BYU storylines

After winning the 2016 West Coast Conference title, BYU has won three-straight WCC championships. Additionally, it was the Cougars’ eighth-consecutive conference title, spanning four different conferences. The auto-bid to the 2016 NCAA tournament was BYU’s 12th-straight and 13th overall.

In 2015, BYU participated in the inaugural Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, taking the victory over Nevada in the first NCAA softball game played outside the United States. The Cougars went undefeated at the 2015 tournament, defeating Nevada, Northern Colorado and Southern Illinois (twice).

BYU returns four seniors: Lauren Bell, McKenna Bull, McKenzie St. Clair and Ashley Thompson. Between them, they have started in 585 games. Bull is a two-time WCC Pitcher of the Year, Thompson is the reigning WCC Player of the Year and Bell was the 2016 WCC Defensive Player of the Year. Bull and Thompson were also named to the 2016 NFCA All-Pacific Region Second Team.

In 2016, senior McKenna Bull was named 2016 WCC Pitcher of the Year, had two no-hitters (San Jose State and UC Santa Barbara) and broke the record for strikeouts, career saves and shutouts in a season and career at BYU. She totaled 286 strikeouts (nine games with double-digit Ks), 102 walks and 10 shutouts, earning six WCC Pitcher of the Week honors and a No. 6 ranking in shutouts and No. 7 in strikeouts in the NCAA.

Sophomore catcher Libby Sugg had a huge freshman season. She led the team with 58 RBIs and 18 home runs, including a grand slam against Saint Mary’s. She had a .319 overall batting average in 2016 and finished No. 17 in home runs and No. 21 in home runs per game in the NCAA.

Opponents outlook


The Huskers finished the 2016 season with a 35-21 record, 13-9 in Big Ten play. They advanced to the NCAA Columbia Regional, the same as the Cougars. The two teams faced off in a win-or-go-home matchup, with BYU falling 2-0. Nebraska lost to host Missouri, 9-0, in five innings in the regional final. Nebraska leads in the overall series record against BYU, 7-3. The Cougars’ last win over the Huskers came in a 5-1 victory on March 12, 2010, at the Diamond Devil Invitational in Tempe, Arizona. Head coach Rhonda Revelle has an 879-464 record in her 24 seasons at Nebraska. This is her 25th season as a head coach, compiling an 887-480 record.

No. 1 Oklahoma

In 2016, the Sooners had a 57-8 record, going 17-1 in the Big 12 to win the conference title. Oklahoma won its third NCAA National Title in 2016, defeating Auburn in the Women’s College World Series two games to one. The team went undefeated in the postseason until an 11-7 setback in extra innings against Auburn. BYU has never defeated Oklahoma in the four-game series history. The last matchup was last season when the Cougars played the Sooners twice in Oklahoma, losing both games, 8-0 and 3-0. Head coach Patty Gasso is entering her 23rd season at Oklahoma with a 1,085-313-2 record. It is her 27th year as a head coach, earning a 1,246-372-3 career record.

No. 13 Washington

The Huskies finished 2016 with a 39-15 overall record, 16-8 in Pac-12 play. They advanced to the 2016 NCAA Super Regionals in Alabama, dropping two games to cap off the season. Washington has the advantage in the series history with BYU, 7-2. The Cougars have lost six in a row, playing the Huskies most recently in the 2014 NCAA Seattle Regional, falling 9-0. The last win for BYU came back in 2002, a 6-4 win in the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah. Head coach Heather Tarr has been at UW for 12 seasons, compiling a 482-211-1 record.

No. 2 Auburn

The Tigers had a 58-12 record in 2016, earning a 16-7 record in the SEC to finish in a tie for third. Auburn was the 2016 NCAA National Runner-up, falling to Oklahoma despite winning one game. BYU has played Auburn just twice, with the Cougars coming out on top both times. The two games were played in the 2011 NCAA Regionals in Seattle. Head coach Clint Myers has a 1,066-187-1 record in his 20 seasons with the Tigers. He has a career record of 1,472-379-1 in his 31 seasons as a head coach.