BYU Photo
Briielle Breland (right-center) slides safely into second base. The Cougars look to bounce back at the Marucci Desert Classic in Las Vegas this week.

BYU softball looks to bounce back this week at the Marucci Desert Classic in Las Vegas on Thursday through Saturday.

The Cougars will play five teams, beginning with Hawai’i on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. PT. Competition continues Friday with matchups against Florida International at 11:15 a.m. and New Mexico at 1:30 p.m. Tournament play concludes Saturday, Feb. 17, with games against Long Beach State at 9 a.m. and Iowa State at 11:15 a.m.

The games against Hawai’i, Long Beach State and Iowa State will be played at Eller Media Stadium on UNLV’s campus. The other two games against FIU and New Mexico will both be played at Stephanie Lynn Craig Park Field in Henderson, Nevada. Links to live stats can be found on the BYU schedule page.

BYU storylines

BYU ranks No. 17 nationally in home runs per game and opened the 2018 campaign with eight home runs from seven players at the Kajikawa Classic. Libby Sugg leads the pack with two, while Ashley Godfrey, Caitlyn Alldredge, Lexi Tarrow, Allie Hancock, Madison Merrell and Bridget Fleener have one apiece. Five Cougars hit homers against Oregon State, including three-run and two-run homers from Godfrey and Alldredge. Tarrow also had a three-run dinger against Stanford.

This is the fourth-straight year BYU has participated in the Marucci Desert Classic, formerly the Demarini Deseret Classic. UNLV hosts the tournament. Last year, the Cougars went 3-0 before the final two games were canceled. BYU went 4-1 in both 2016 and 2015. The only team on all four schedules is Hawai’i, which the Cougars have defeated each of the past three years.

Including the 2017 West Coast Conference title, BYU has won four-straight WCC championships. Additionally, it was the Cougars’ ninth-consecutive conference title, spanning four different conferences. The automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA tournament was BYU’s 13th straight and 14th overall.

Junior catcher and team captain Sugg has been named to the 2018 USA Softball College Player of the Year Watch List. She earned NFCA All-Pacific Region First-Team honors and was named to the All-WCC Second Team last season. Sugg led the team in RBIs and home runs with 56 and 13, respectively, while hitting .356.

Opponents outlook

Hawai’i

The Rainbow Wahine finished the 2017 season with a 29-23 record, 8-13 in Big West play. BYU leads in the overall series, 12-2, most recently winning 7-5 on February 8, 2017, in the same tournament last year. Head coach Bob Coolen enters his 27th season at the helm of the Hawai’i program and 29th overall. He is the school’s all-time winningest softball coach in the 33-year history of the program with a 950-571-1 record at UH.

FIU

In 2017, FIU had a 45-15 overall record, going 17-9 in Conference USA. The Panthers advanced to the NCAA Gainesville Regional, where they beat Florida A&M and fell to Oklahoma State twice. This game will be the second meeting between BYU and FIU. The Panthers won, 3-2, on March 8, 2002. Gator Rebhan is in his fourth season as head coach after serving as an assistant coach in 2014. In his third season, Rebhan took FIU back to the NCAA Regionals for the third time in school history, earning a spot in the Conference USA Championship game for the first time and earning a coveted at-large bid to the postseason.

New Mexico

The Lobos finished 2017 with a 20-30 overall record, 6-18 in Mountain West Conference play. BYU leads in the overall series against former MWC foe New Mexico, 38-18. The Cougars last beat the Lobos, 2-0, on February 6, 2015, in their last meeting. In her first season as head coach, Paula Congleton returns to her alma mater. She has more than 20 years head coaching experience, along with 300-plus wins.

Long Beach State

In 2017, Long Beach State finished the season with a 23-28-1 overall record, 11-10 in Big West play. BYU carries the edge in the overall series, 4-3. The 49ers most recently won, 6-0, on March 17, 2016. Kim Sowder has been with Long Beach State for 11 seasons, compiling a record of 356-245-1. The 49ers have advanced to six NCAA Regional appearances under Sowder.

Iowa State

The Cyclones finished 2017 with a 25-35 overall record, 6-12 in Big 12 competition. BYU holds the advantage in the overall series with a 2-0 record, last winning 5-0 on February 27, 2009. Head coach Jamie Pinkerson enters his first season as head coach after serving as an assistant coach from 2009-13. During that time, he was instrumental in developing a strong offense. The 2013 Cyclones set schools records for runs (284), home runs (40), RBIs (253) and walks (166).