With conference play beginning to give clarity on who’s ready for the NCAA softball stretch run, here’s a look at the teams that played in Session 1 of the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in February (all numbers as of April 17).
Auburn (3-1 at Puerto Vallarta)
Ranked No. 7 nationally at 36-7 overall. Record is 10-5 in the SEC, 4th place.
Carlee Wallace – .376; team-high 40 RBI; .497 OBP; only six strikeouts in 125 at bats.
Kaylee Carlson – 21-2; 1.27 ERA.
Makayla Martin – 15-5; 1.98 ERA.
The Tigers got a huge bases-loaded triple from Kendall Veach against Missouri last weekend, breaking an 0-for-20 stretch for her. She leads the team in home runs (10). Pitchers Carlson and Martin continue to thrive despite not being big strikeout threats, notching a combined 172 K’s in 251 innings. Auburn can keep up the pressure in the SEC this weekend with three games against South Carolina (3-11 in league play), but the Gamecocks to have quality wins against Alabama and Florida State.
BYU (3-1 at Puerto Vallarta)
Ranked No. 21 nationally at 31-10 overall. Record is 6-0 in the WCC, 1st place.
Libby Sugg – .351; team-high 37 RBI; nine home runs.
Caitlyn Alldredge – .354; team-high 19 extra-base hits; .450 OBP.
McKenna Bull – 21-4; 1.56 ERA; 159 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched.
The Cougars have been a balanced offensive team all year and have the ultimate anchor in the circle in Bull who has set BYU career records for shutouts, saves, innings pitched and complete games. Hitters are managing just a .209 batting average against her. The team is enjoying a 10-game winning streak that started after a difficult patch of games and three very close losses – 1-0 and 4-2 to UCLA, and 1-0 to Oregon. The Cougars played 33 of their first 38 games on the road.
Nebraska (0-4 at Puerto Vallarta)
19-22 overall. Record is 9-5 in the Big Ten, 5th place.
MJ Knighten – .326; team-high five home runs, 21 RBI, 10 stolen bases.
Alyvia Simmons – .348; 12 doubles; team-high .402 OBP.
Kaylan Jablonski – 10-11; 4.62 ERA; six complete games.
The Cornhuskers have recovered in many respects from an 0-10 start to the season, winning 15 of their last 21 contests. A three-game sweep of Penn State last weekend included a walk-off home run from Austen Urness and a five-run rally in the seventh inning. Nebraska is going to need an uptick from the pitching staff, which is sitting at an ERA of 4.73, and the overall defense, as the team has given up 59 unearned runs.
Oklahoma (2-2 at Puerto Vallarta)
Ranked No. 8 nationally at 38-7 overall. Record is 9-0 in the Big 12, 1st place.
Nicole Mendes – .411; .470 OBP; 11 stolen bases; 27 runs.
Caleigh Clifton – .395; .566 OBP; 15 extra-base hits; league-best 49 runs scored.
Paige Lowary – 10-1; 1.71 ERA; allowing .167 batting average to hitters.
Paige Parker – 15-5; 1.76 ERA; 159 strikeouts in 123 innings pitched.
The Sooners are arguably peaking at the right time, with a 15-game winning streak and a three-game sweep of Kansas that pushed them past Oklahoma State into the conference lead. Parker struck out 15 Kansas batters in a win last weekend, and Lowary’s ERA in her past 36.2 innings is 0.57; Parker has been named as one of the 25 finalists for national player of the year. Shay Knighten has 42 RBIs.
Washington (3-1 in Puerto Vallarta)
Ranked No. 9 nationally at 31-10 overall. Record is 8-7 in the Pac-12, 4th place.
Casey Stangel – .387; nine doubles and nine home runs; 37 RBI; .483 OBP.
Morganne Flores – .328; eight double and nine home runs; 45 RBI.
Taran Alvelo – 19-6; 2.28 ERA: 136 strikeouts in 147.1 innings pitched; 16 complete games.
The Huskies felt the sting of their tough conference with a five-game losing skid in late March, with three losses to Arizona and two more to UCLA before topping the Bruins, 12-7, on April 2. But the team is clearly capable of beating anyone, having just topped Oregon twice this past weekend. Senior Ali Aguilar missed six games earlier in the season, but she is hitting .552 over the past three weeks. Trysten Melhart is 16-for-16 in stolen base attempts this season.