PROVO, Utah — The BYU softball team will travel to Palm Springs, Calif., to play No. 10 LSU and Oklahoma State on Thursday, UNLV on Friday, and Northwestern and UC Santa Barbara on Saturday in the Big League Dreams Complex at the Mary Nutter Classic.
The Cougars played in their last Mary Nutter Classic in 2012 and lost three of their five games to three ranked teams in No. 21 Oklahoma State, No. 1 Florida and No. 14 Texas A&M.
BYU is currently 4-6 on the season and recently beat No. 20 Hawai’i in its first game of the Easton Desert Classic. BYU’s defense turned three double plays in the tournament, including two against No. 20 Hawai’i.
Junior Katie Manuma was named the College Madness PCSC Player of the Week for hitting .400 with six RBIs in the Easton Desert Classic.
JC Clayton is currently on a nine-game hitting streak and has gotten a hit in every game but one. Her career record is 15 games.
Head coach Gordon Eakin is in his 11th season with BYU and has a record of 420-181 (.704). He is currently No. 18 on the list of Division I active college softball coaches in win percentage.
No. 10 LSU
This will be the first time the Cougars will face LSU in BYU history. The No. 10-ranked Tigers have a record of 10-1 this season, losing only to No. 22 North Carolina — a team LSU had previously beat to start the season. With a team batting average of .289, the Tigers have blasted 25 extra-base hits, including 10 home runs, and have scored 55 runs compared to 13 from its opponents. They are led by Bianka Bell who is currently hitting a .407 clip with two home runs and six RBIs on the season. At the mound, LSU is led by senior Rachel Fico who has an ERA of 0.38 to go along with her six wins and 51 strikeouts. The Tigers have played 10 of their 11 games at home as they hosted two tournaments to start the season, with the only away game being against Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.
The Cowgirls are led by junior catcher Tarah Ettinger who has pushed in six runs on a .444 batting average so far this season. Oklahoma State has scored 26 runs this year, but has also held its opponents to only 17 runs. All four of the Cowgirl’s losses this season came by less than two runs, and two of them were lost in extra innings to Iowa and Dayton at the Lovelace Invitational last weekend. Ace Simone Freemane is 4-2 for Oklahoma State and has only given away a total of nine earned runs in her six appearances for the Cowgirls. BYU and Oklahoma State remain even at three wins apiece in the overall series record and will each look to grab the go-ahead win on Friday.
BYU has an all-time record of 34-12 against UNLV, but hasn’t faced the Runnin’ Rebels since leaving the Mountain West Conference in 2011. BYU won the last game between the two teams with its biggest win to date against UNLV, scoring 16 runs and holding them to only two hits on April 29, 2011. The Runnin’ Rebels sit at an even 5-5 this season and are led by .423 batter Stefany Valentino who adds two doubles, one home run and eight RBIs to her season statistics. UNLV has five pitchers who have made an appearance this season but are led by veteran Amanda Oliveto who has all five wins along with 31 strikeouts and 42.2 innings pitched.
The Wildcats started the season with a difficult schedule that had them playing four teams in the top 15. Three of their losses came to those teams in No. 13 Arizona, No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 13 Georgia. In their first tournament of the year, the Wildcats couldn’t produce a win and left the Kajiwaka Classic in Arizona with an 0-5 record. Since then the team has picked up three wins and only one loss and looks to improve upon that record in its third tournament of the 2013 campaign. The team has five batters who are hitting over .300 and are led by Andrea DiPrima who is hitting .524 with three doubles and two runs scored. The Wildcats have four pitchers on their roster but are led by Meghan Lamberth and Amy Letourneau who have pitched a combined 50.2 innings of the 60 total.
UC Santa Barbara
The Gauchos started their 2013 season with a record of 5-0 in the Mardi Gras Classic and outscored their opponents 30-5, with two shutouts. However, Missouri handed UCSB both of its losses in its next tournament by outscoring them 23-4 to take both victories. The Gauchos are led by senior Keilani Jennings who has a team-high 13 RBIs to go along with a .438 clip and seven extra-base hits, including four home runs. Sophomore Shelby Wisdom has a record of 6-2 with 34 strikeouts for UCSB, while also hitting .306 with seven RBIs.
Last time out
BYU started the Easton Desert Classic with an upset of No. 20 Hawai’i, but gave up both of its leads on day two to go 2-3 in the tournament.
BYU (3-3) had seven hits in its first game of the tournament and took advantage of three Hawai’i (5-2) errors for the 4-2 win. Lacey Millett added two stolen bases to her three hits and two runs, while JC Clayton, Katie Manuma, Megan Arnold and Carly Duckworth each contributed one hit. Manuma also had two of the Cougar RBIs. BYU’s defense came up big as well, turning its first two double plays of the season against the Rainbow Wahine. Tori Almond pitched her way to her second win of the season and had seven strikeouts in the outing.
On day two, the BYU softball team led heading into the seventh inning of both its games at Stephanie Lynn Craig Park, but squandered both of its leads to go 0-2 on the day, losing 7-3 to Oregon State and 6-5 to Louisiana Monroe.
“Our team fought hard today against two very good teams to take multiple run leads into the seventh inning of both games,” Eakin said. “With just three outs to go and the lead, our pitchers could not get the job done. Our veteran pitching staff needs to step up and close the door in those situations.”
BYU (4-6) turned things around in its first game on Saturday and held onto its one-run lead to take the 4-3 victory against Cal State Fullerton (2-5), but wasn’t able to finish the day with a win as Portland State hit three homeruns en route a 5-3 victory.
Almond pitched the first three innings against Fullerton and gave up two runs on two hits with five strikeouts. Hannah Howell pitched the remaining four innings and held CSF to one run on two hits for her first win of the season. Ashlee Brawley Robinson and Clayton led the team offensively with two hits apiece. Robinson also scored one run and brought in the game-winning run in the bottom of the fourth.
BYU used a two-run fourth inning to take the 3-2 lead against the Vikings, but a single, double and home run in the bottom of the frame helped Portland State take back the lead at 5-3. BYU wasn’t able to answer and fell to the Vikings for its sixth loss of the season.
Jamie Morris is the softball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.