Cougars face Wolverines in fall softball opener

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The BYU softball team begins it fall season today at 3 p.m. at Gail Miller Field, as the Cougars take on Utah Valley University in the first home game of the preseason.

The Cougars haven’t lost to the Wolverines in softball since May 2006 and aren’t looking to interrupt that trend anytime soon.

With two intra-squad scrimmages under its belt, the softball team is eager to take on outside competition, and although UVU has already experienced a preseason game against Utah, BYU coaches’ and players’ outlook is positive.

“We’re so excited,” junior pitcher Hannah Howell said. “First game of the fall — that’s exciting. I think [today] depends on how we come out and play. If we play our game, everything’s going to be take care of. Whether they’ve already seen other competition, I don’t think it matters. They still have to play us.”

The coaches said they are excited for the competitive opportunity and feel the team is ready to take on the Wolverines.

“I’m trusting our kids,” assistant coach Vaughn Alvey said. “I think they’re really excited to play. They’ve practiced for a long, long time, and they’ve got butterflies — a great thing to have. Their anticipation is really high.”

In preparation for today’s game, and aside from last week’s scrimmages, the softball team and staff have focused mainly on defense.

“We’ve been working on defense a lot,” senior outfielder Jessica Dugas said. “Defense is the theme of our fall so far. We’ve always been kind of a hitting group, but we’ve been working on defense and getting back down to the mechanics and the basics.”

Alvey said the team has gone over defensive situations that will be critical during a game, so the team “should be prepared.”

The team has also had to prepare by playing in different positions than some are used to.

“The big difference is personnel,” Alvey said. “We’ve got five or six kids that are not available, so we’ve got kids that are playing positions they’re not normally playing. Our kids have versatility … just being in game situations will be different for some of them.”

As for the pair injured during a collision last Thursday, Alvey said Tiffany Messerschmidt’s and Krista Hicks’ concussions are still problematic.

“They won’t play [today] for sure,” he said. “They’ve got several stitches. They’ll be a game-time decision on Friday from what the trainer’s telling us, but that’ll be up to the doctors and trainers.”

From an emotional point of view, team members see the injuries as inspiration to play well.

“It’ll make us want to play better, just because we want to do it for them,” Howell said. “They’ll be out there supporting us, and we want to make sure that we have their backs, and that they’re being taken care of while they’re not [playing].”

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