BYU softball breaks into Top 25 after Puerto Vallarta Challenge

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Ari Davis
McKenna Bull pitches for BYU in a game against Pacific last season. (Ari Davis)

The BYU softball team propelled into the Top 25 after participating in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Mexico on Feb. 9-11. It is the first time BYU softball has been ranked since 2011.

The No. 25 Cougars wanted to gain big-game experience in the event and that’s exactly what they got.

The schedule included games against Nebraska, No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 13 Washington and No. 2 Auburn.

Not only did the team add great experience, the Cougars also picked up two big wins along the way.

The first opponent the Cougars faced was a Nebraska squad that ended BYU’s season last year. The Cornhuskers defeated the Cougars 2-0 in the NCAA regional tournament.

Led by senior pitcher McKenna Bull, the Cougars got revenge this year, defeating Nebraska 12-1.

Rylee Jensen made her collegiate debut against Nebraska and went 4-4, scoring three runs. Sophomore catcher Libby Sugg drove in five runs, and the Cougars picked up a win in the mercy-rule shortened game.

The 11-run margin of victory was the largest for a season opener in BYU softball history.

Next up for the Cougars was a matchup with the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners won 57 games last season and captured the National Championship, their third in team history.

Oklahoma defeated BYU 7-1 behind a five-run third inning.

Despite the loss, BYU head coach Gordon Eakin wasn’t worried.

“We saw some really good things today against exceptional competition,” Eakin said. “We will take away the good things and build and adjust on the things we need to work on. I like our team.”

The next day, the Cougars came back from a 2-1 deficit against No. 13 Washington, thanks to Caitlyn Larsen Alldredge who drove in two runs on a double in the top of the sixth inning.

The Cougars never looked back and were able to hang on for the 4-2 win. Bull went seven innings and picked up her second win of the season.

“That was a great win in an electric environment,” Eakin said. “It was a total team effort, and I thought our bench was ready to play. The players came through. It’s a terrific win to start the season.”

The final game of the weekend was a defensive battle, which resulted in a 3-0 loss against No. 2 Auburn.

Freshman Arissa Paulsen made her collegiate debut and pitched a complete game with six strikeouts and allowing only three hits.

Heading into the weekend the Cougars were 3-2 with a couple of wins over storied softball programs. Eakin said the pitching staff showed a lot of promise and the Cougars were “very good against great competition.”

Bull was named the West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week for her performances during the Puerto Vallarta Challenge.

The two-time WCC Pitcher of the Year threw 12 innings, struck out 10 and allowed just three runs. Her ERA after her two complete games was 1.75. Her opponent batting average was just .186.

The Cougars next play in the Mary Nutter Classic on Feb. 23-25. BYU will play Georgia, Arizona, Louisville, St. Joseph’s College and Texas A&M.

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