BYU softball ready to play following schedule announcement
The BYU softball team released its 2021 schedule on Feb. 2 and will begin the season on Feb. 11 in Tempe, Arizona after a shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19.
“After an unpredictable year, we are eager to play the game that we love,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said.
The Cougars start the season at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, hosted by Arizona State, playing back-to-back games against the Sun Devils on Feb. 11.
BYU will then co-host the St. George Classic with Dixie State the following weekend on Feb. 18–20, going up against the University of Washington, Utah State, the University of Montana, Utah Valley University and the University of Nevada.
The team will go to California to compete in the Stanford Invitational March 4-6, followed by the Oklahoma State Invitational to finish the early-season tournaments.
A highlight of the 2021 schedule is a three-game home series against Big-12 rival Baylor on April 1-2. The Cougars will then start West Coast Conference games April 9 against Saint Mary’s on the road.
“We have been preparing as a team, and working on specific skills sets,” Eakin said. “We are a pretty driven and highly-motivated team. We are ready to play.”
Eakin had regular Zoom calls with his team during the pandemic to stay optimistic, but he said that it was anything but normal.
“COVID has brought us something that we aren’t used to, but we have been resilient and have learned to adapt,” Eakin said.
There are seven newly recruited freshmen this season, including five from California and two from Utah.
“Recruiting is the life-blood of any successful team,” Eakin said, as he has led the Cougars to the conference championship 11 years in a row. “We have highly-skilled recruits that have blended well with the team.”
A new NCAA rule was made in October 2020 that gives seniors whose seasons were affected by COVID-19 an optional extra year of eligibility.
Outfielder Rylee Jensen-McFarland and third baseman Emilee Erickson were standouts last season and have both decided to return and play one last season for the Cougars after having their senior seasons cut short in 2020.
“I had put my heart and soul into this season and all of the sudden it was just gone,” Jensen-McFarland said after last year’s canceled season. “I was having such a good season. I set my goal to be an All-American and I was on track for that. And in a moment it was all just taken away from me.”
Jensen-McFarland and Erickson join a young group of promising new talent for a BYU team looking to claim a 12th-straight conference crown in 2021.