BYU softball heads to Mexico to open 2023 season
PROVO, Utah — BYU softball travels to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to begin its 2023 campaign at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge this week. The Cougars will kick off the year with a doubleheader on Thursday and a game each on Friday and Saturday.
All games will be played at Nancy Almaraz Stadium in Puerto Vallarta. Online tournament pass sales are now closed but passes and single day tickets can still be purchased on site. More ticket information can be found on the College Challenge website.
|Puerto Vallarta College Challenge Game Information|
|Feb. 9||12:30 p.m. CST||North Carolina||FloSoftball ($)||StatBroadcast|
|Feb. 9||6 p.m. CST||Wisconsin||FloSoftball ($)|
|Feb. 10||3 p.m. CST||Maryland||FloSoftball ($)||Sidearm Stats|
|Feb. 11||12:30 p.m. CST||North Dakota State||FloSoftball ($)||StatBroadcast|
BYU participated in the inaugural College Challenge in 2015 and in four of the six years it has run since. This will be the fifth time that the Cougars travel to Puerto Vallarta for the PVCC, and the fourth time that they begin their season in Mexico since 2017, also opening at the PVCC in 2019 and 2020.
Overall, BYU is 9-7 in its previous four trips to the College Challenge, going 4-0 in the inaugural year, 2-2 in 2017, 1-3 in 2019 and 2-2 again in 2020. The Cougars faced their day one opponent, North Carolina, in the 2019 PVCC, falling 5-4.
Other Puerto Vallarta opponents include Nevada, Northern Colorado, Southern Illinois-Carbondale, Auburn, Washington, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Carolina, Baylor, Liberty, North Carolina, George Washington and Oregon. Six of BYU's previous 16 PVCC foes have been ranked in Top 25 polls.
- North Carolina
- The Tar Heels went 23-28 (6-18 ACC) in 2022
- Head coach Donna Papa is in her 37th year at UNC, going 1313-777-5 (.628) in that time
- Carolina returns 18 players from last season, including outfielder Bri Stubbs, pitcher/utility player Kianna Jones and pitcher/utility player Carlie Myrtle
- Stubbs led the returnees in batting average (.355), runs scored (38) and hits (50) last season, with Jones pacing the Tar Heels in slugging percentage (.478) and home runs (8)
- Myrtle highlights the UNC returnees in the circle, posting a 4.03 ERA in 59 innings pitched
- The Badgers went 30-21 (12-11 Big Ten) in 2022
- In 12 seasons as head coach at Wisconsin, Yvette Healy has posted a 362-237-1 (.604) record
- Returning infielder Kayla Konwent was ranked No. 92 in D1Softball.com's Preseason Top 100 players list
- The Badger's all-time career home run leader, Konwent led the team in batting average (.351), hits (50), doubles (10), home runs (10) and RBI (32) last season
- Right-handed pitcher Maddie Schwartz returns for Wisconsin with 30 starts, 213 innings pitched and a 2.30 ERA a season ago
- The Terrapins went 29-23 (14-7 Big Ten) in 2022
- Head coach Mark Montgomery has been at Maryland for three seasons and has a 60-59 record (.504)
- Junior outfielder Jaeda McFarland was named to the Extra Innings Elite 100 College Players list, ranked No. 85
- McFarland was named to the All-Big Ten First Team for the second time last year after finishing top-five on the team in a number of statistical categories
- Senior right-handed pitcher Courtney Wyche returns for the Terps, striking out a career-high 139 batters and recording a team and career-low 1.95 ERA last season
- North Dakota State
- The Bison went 30-33 (10-18 Summit) in 2022
- 21 seasons in as NDSU's head coach, Darren Mueller is 700-418 (.626)
- Returning six starters, the Bison are led by outfielder Emilee Buringa, who had the fourth-best batting average last season, at .296
- Buringa drew the most walks (27) and also recorded the second-most RBI (37)
- Paige Vargas, a senior right-handed pitcher returns for NDSU after posting a 2.21 ERA in 171.1 innings pitched last season
Led by outfielder Violet Zavodnik and left-handed ace Chloe Temples, BYU also returns power hitters at the corners, first baseman Huntyr Ava and third baseman Martha Epenesa. All four returnees were named to All-WCC teams last season, as well as second baseman Alyssa Podhurcak and utility player Mallory Barber, who return this season as well.
Zavodnik and Ava also earned NFCA All-Pacific Region honors in 2022, with Zavodnik named to the First Team and Ava to the Second. The duo has gained preseason recognition from a couple of media outlets heading into 2023. Zavodnik was ranked No. 28 in the D1Softball.com Preseason Top 100 Player Rankings and also the fifth-best outfielder. Extra Innings has rated the junior outfielder at No. 25 on its Elite Top 100 list, while Ava was ranked No. 12 on the Stars at the Corners list.
After making the NCAA Tournament each season dating back to 2004, the Cougars missed the tourney last year after finishing 42-10 (13-2 WCC) and closing out the year on a 17-game win streak. Despite clinching a share of the West Coast Conference title, BYU lost the auto bid to the NCAA Tournament to Loyola Marymount off a tiebreaker.
Beginning with their first four games of the 2023 slate in Mexico, the Cougars look to make their way back to the tourney this season and win the WCC crown for a ninth-straight year in their final season as members of the conference.