PROVO, Utah — The BYU softball team kicks off its 2013 season this weekend in the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah.
BYU faces Colorado State on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. MT. The Cougars are then matched up with Seattle and Nevada on Friday at 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., respecitively. On Saturday, BYU goes against No. 5 Tennessee at 1:30 p.m. and Idaho State at 4.
BYU plays all of its games on Field 5 of the Canyons Complex.
Cougar quick hits
The Cougars played in their last Red Desert Classic in 2010, where they went 5-0, beating San Jose State, Seattle, UC Santa Barbara, Maine and Tulsa. In the tournament, BYU outscored its opponents 41-16.
BYU is moving to its third new conference in as many years. The Cougars will join the Pacific Coast Softball Conference alongside Santa Clara, Saint Mary’s, San Diego, Utah Valley, Loyola Marymount and Cal State Bakersfield for the 2013 season.
Head coach Gordon Eakin starts his 11th season with a 416-175 (.704) record. He is currently No. 18 on the list of Division I active college softball coaches in win percentage.
The team returns All-American shortstop JC Clayton and second-team All-Conference performers Tori Almond and Katie Manuma to this year’s roster. The team also welcomes four freshmen and one transfer to the roster.
The Rams return 17 letterwinners from last year’s team that finished the year with a 29-22 record and an 8-4 record in the Mountain West Conference. Last year, the team was led by junior pitcher Kacie McCarthy. McCarthy earned MWC Pitcher of the Year and NFCA Pacific Region accolades. Colorado State only outscored its opponents 267-260 in 2012, but were able to rely on a .294 batting average and a .949 fielding percentage to take second in the MWC. The Cougars are 28-17 overall against the Rams. In the last matchup on May 5, 2011, BYU beat CSU 18-5.
BYU will play Seattle for just the second time in school history this season. In 2010, BYU took the 3-2 win over the Redhawks. This year, Seattle returns its best hitter, Sarah Petosa. Junior outfielder Petosa led the team with a .365 batting average, 54 hits and 20 runs. The team will look to the experience of junior Richelle Ashburn from the mound and will also welcome transfer pitcher Breonna Chrisman to the team this year.
BYU and Nevada faced each other last season in Western Athletic Conference play, and the Cougars took all three games from the Wolfpack, outscoring them 25-4. Nevada returns 15 letterwinners from last year’s roster and will look to improve upon its record of 21-34 in its first season in the Mountain West Conference. Nevada will be led by junior Karley Hopkins, who hit .333 with 61 hits and 31 runs in 2012, and junior Sarah Parsons, who earned first-team All-WAC honors for her .368 batting average and league-high eight doubles.
No. 5 Tennessee
The Lady Vols are coming off a 52-14 season and their fifth appearance in the Women’s College World Series. Tennessee was 22-6 in conference play and took first in its division in 2012. The team is led by sisters Ivy and Ellen Renfroe, who helped the team to its seventh 50-plus win season in program history. The Renfroe sisters combined for all 52 Tennessee wins last year and sported a 1.80 and 1.24 ERA, respectively. This year the team will also welcome Anna Renfroe, the sister of Ivy and Ellen. Offensively, the Lady Vols are led by Raven Chavanne, who hit .422 alongside 79 hits and 44 runs. Co-head coaches Karen Weekly and Ralph Weekly, along with their staff, were also named NFCA Southeast Staff of the Year in 2012. BYU is 0-4 all-time against the Vols.
The Bengals return 11 letterwinners from last year’s roster. BYU and Idaho State played twice last season and split games, with BYU winning 5-2 at home and Idaho State winning 7-4 at home. Amanda Fitzsimmons will return to the mound for her senior season and will look to improve upon her record of 11-13 from last year. Fitzsimmons earned 11 of the 12 Bengal wins in 2012 and also led the team offensively with a .324 batting average and nine home runs. BYU has an all-time record of 11-1 against Idaho State.
BYU softball grabbed the top spot in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference preseason poll for 2013.
All seven head coaches participated in the poll and six of the seven gave BYU a first-place vote, each worth seven points. BYU received 48 votes overall followed by Loyola Marymount with 39 and San Diego with 32. Saint Mary’s received the other first place vote as the defending conference champions and were picked to finish just behind San Diego with 31 votes. Utah Valley finished with 18 votes, CSU Bakersfield with 15 and Santa Clara with 13.
BYU also received four votes in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll to earn a No. 35 national ranking. The Cougars also received one vote in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 rankings.
Jamie Morris is the softball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.