Thursday will see Session 2 of the 2019 Puerto Vallarta College Challenge start in earnest with five games, and three teams currently ranked in the top 25 of the USA Today/NFCA poll will be in uniform. Here’s a quick look at how Session 2 teams got off the mark before making the trip to Mexico.
ARKANSAS – The Razorbacks swept their five-game run in Louisiana, with sophomore pitcher Mary Haff already in mid-season form with a 3-0 record with one walk and 28 strikeouts in 20 innings. Ashley Diaz had seven hits, including four doubles.
This is looking like another rebound season for the program as head coach Courtney Deifel enters her fourth year. In 2015 and 2016, the Razorbacks were a combined 2-46 in SEC play.
Arkansas is ranked No. 12 in the country and has four players in the Softball America Top 100. It will take on North Dakota State and No. 5 Washington on Thursday to start the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.
MISSISSIPPPI STATE – The Bulldogs hosted their own tournament in Starkville to start the season and went 4-1 overall, including two shutouts. Sophomore pitcher Emily Williams (1-0) threw 13 innings and struck out 25 batters, and Alyssa Loza threw a five-inning perfect game in a win over Valparaiso while the offense ended the set with a .331 batting average.
Fa Leilua, a junior transfer from Arizona State, hit three home runs, and sophomore Mia Davidson hit two as well, including her first career grand slam. Mississippi State did lose the title game of the tournament, 1-0, to Stephen F. Austin, as freshman pitcher Kassidy Wilbur spun a two-hitter with four walks and nine strikeouts.
The Bulldogs (ranked No. 25 in the USA Today/NFCA poll) will play Southern Illinois and No. 5 Washington on Thursday at Puerto Vallarta.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE – The Bison went 3-1 overall at the Bobcat Classic, hosted by Texas State. The event ended with an exciting 4-3 win for NDSU in 10 innings over the host Bobcats – all the runs for both teams were scored in that final inning. Vanessa Anderson hit a bases-loaded double to plate three runs in the 10th for the Bison.
Madyson Camacho had six hits for NDSU, which will proceed with two sophomore and one freshman pitchers. The Bison will not actually play a home game until April 13 and the start of Summit League action.
NORTHERN COLORADO – The Bears will be looking for their footing for a bit under new head coach Ben Garcia, who had phenomenal success at D-II Colorado Mesa in his four season there. UNC went 1-4 in its opening slate at the Texas A&M Aggie Classic, securing a 6-1 victory over California Baptist.
Senior Kenzie Kudrna hit .385 at the event, and the Bears got home runs from Natalie Joyner, Dani Young and Shaena Robinson. UNC faced No. 20 Texas A&M in that first event and will play Arkansas on Friday in Mexico.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS – The Salukis went 3-2 at the Lion Classic in Louisiana, capping the event with a 15-3 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Junior catcher Katelyn Massa was the Missouri Valley Conference players of the week after posting three doubles, three walks and six RBI.
Senior pitcher Brianna Jones closed with a 1.91 ERA, striking out 16 batters in 14 2/3 innings in getting two wins. The Salukis were 31-22 last year and will kick off Thursday’s action in Mexico against No. 25 Mississippi State.
WASHINGTON – The Huskies didn’t have to move a muscle from last week; they were 4-1 at Session 1 of the PV College Challenge. Sis Bates earned MVP honors, hitting .526; senior pitcher Taran Alvelo was 2-1 with a 0.43 ERA and a save as she appeared in all five contests, and the defense was solid, making just two errors over all five games.
Washington’s sole loss came in extra innings against Notre Dame. The Huskies are the second-highest Pac-12 team in the national rankings, trailing only No. 2 UCLA.