Softball Heads to Regionals Thursday

Freshman Daniella Urincho was named MWC Tournament MVP after helping the Cougars win the MWC title with two wins. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- BYU softball received an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Tournament by defeating UNLV in the Mountain West Conference Championship Saturday in San Diego.

The Cougars (44-12) will open at Fresno State against No. 2 California (46-11) Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in the double-elimination tournament, which runs May 19-21.

Fans can listen to the games live on BYU Radio by going to www.byuradio.org.

BYU was one of 28 teams, out of the 64 team-field, that received an automatic bid to the tournament. UNLV (43-17), also representing the MWC, made the at-large selection and will open at Los Angeles against Cal State Fullerton (28-19) Friday, May 20.

"We definitely earned an invitation to the tournament," BYU softball head coach Eakin said. "We're a little disappointed to start off with California, but we have to beat them all to win it anyway. So, we'll start off with whoever they give us."

This is the second time BYU has been invited to the NCAA Tournament. BYU played in the NCAA Regional Tournament in 2001 losing to Nebraska and Hofstra.

"We're obviously excited to keep playing," Eakin said. "We'll take one day off and then get ready for regionals."

This will be the 20th-consecutive year California has appeared at an NCAA tournament. Last year California lost to UCLA 3-1 in the NCAA Women's College World Series Championship game.

Fresno State (41-10) will open at home against Long Beach State (39-14). Fresno, the Region No. 2 host, will be the only regional site opening the tournament on Thursday, May 19, to accommodate BYU because the school does not compete on Sunday.

National Attention

- BYU softball is currently ranked fourth in slugging percentage at .527 and seventh in scoring at 6.14.

- The Cougars are currently ranked sixth in the nation in home runs per game at 1.21, with junior Ashlyn Russell ranking 15th in the nation at .3.

- BYU has the 10th best batting average in the nation at .318 with Lauren Watson-Perry ranking 12th at .43 and ranking 17th in runs per game at .94.

- Junior Ianeta Le`i is ranked 21th nationally in runs batted in per game at .98.

- BYU pitcher junior Summer Tobias is ranked 19th nationally in saves with 4.

- Senior Lauren Watson-Perry was recently drafted 21st overall in the Ladies Pro Fastpitch Association (LPFA) senior draft. The selection was made March 11, and Watson-Perry was among the first ever batch of draftees.

"I'm really looking forward to continue playing softball," Watson-Perry said. "I didn't think I would ever get the chance to play after BYU. I'm completely excited and I realize it's a great opportunity for me."

The games for the LPFA begin May 26, 2005 and Watson-Perry said she expects that she will be working out a contract shortly after the BYU season if over.

Offense

As a team the Cougars are batting .318 and are ranked No. 10 in the nation in batting average and No. 7 in the nation in scoring (6.14 runs per game). Leading the way offensively for the Cougars is Lauren Watson-Perry with a .430 batting average. She is followed by teammates Ianeta Le`i (.359), Paige Paramore (.355), Ashlyn Russell (.322), Jodi Norton (.311), Debbie Dodds (.300) and Krystle Chamberlain (.300). Watson-Perry leads the team in hits (71) and in runs scored (51). Norton posted a team-high 13 extra base doubles this season and Jennifer Whiteley leads in triples (4). Le`i posts a team-high 53 RBI. BYU continues its long-ball offense hitting 68 home runs in 56 games with Russell leading the way with 17 home runs so far this season. Watson-Perry leads in stolen bases with 12-out-of 15 attempts.

Pitching

The pitching staff is posting a 2.15 overall ERA led by junior Summer Tobias who registers a 1.64 ERA in 31 appearances. Tobias has pitched 16 complete games and posts a 18-6 overall record with 111 strikeouts. Freshman Danilla Urincho follows Tobias with 1.66 ERA and a 16-2 record and 76 strikeouts. Urincho has pitched 15 complete games this season for BYU while appearing in 22 games. Senior Niki Andersen has appeared in 10 games this season to post a 2.74 ERA and a 2-0 record. Junior Brooke Boyce has a 3.62 ERA posting a 8-4 record and has four saves.

BYU in the NCAA Regionals

The 2005 NCAA Regionals will be Coach Eakin's first national Cougar NCAA appearance.

2001 --Hosted by Stanford (Palo Alto, Calif.)

After winning the regular season and conference tournament titles for the first time in school history in only its second year of NCAA Division I competition, the BYU softball team entered the 2001 NCAA Regional Tournament in Palo Alto, Calif., as the No. 5 seed. The Cougars were put out of the double-elimination tournament with back-to-back losses from No. 11 Nebraska 3-1 and Hofstra 4-2. BYU ends the season with a 35-26 record and an 11-6 conference record.

A Glance at the Competition

California (46-11, 13-7 Pac-10) played in the 2004 NCAA Championship falling two points shy of earning the title. The No. 2 Golden Bears ended the 2005 regular season splitting the Pac-10 title with OSU, Stanford and Arizona--the largest title split in Pac-10 history.

No. 15 Fresno State (41-10, 17-1 WAC) came off the regular season earning the WAC title. Fresno State is the only program in the nation to have qualified for all 24 NCAA Softball Championships.

Long Beach State (39-14. 19-2 Big West) won their second straight conference title and fifth in the last 10 years. This will be the 49ers' third consecutive NCAA regional appearance and the 16th postseason all-time appearance.

Ticket Information

REGIONALS Seating Tourny. Pass Single Day

(6 or 7 gms) Lower box seats reserved $58 $25

Upper reserved $48 $17

1st/3rd base risers $38 $15

Outfield-Gen. Admin. $28 $12

Outfield-GA (students/seniors/children) $18 $7

All-tournament passes can be purchased at the Bulldog Ticket Office

at (559) 278-3647 or go on-line at www.gobulldogs.com. Single day tickets

will be available on each day of the Regional only.

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