Softball Sports

Softball heads to Mexico for round robin tournament

Softball continues its eight game road trip to start the season as the team heads to Mexico for the Puerto Vallarta Challenge. | File photo/The Cougar

The softball team heads to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico this weekend to compete in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.

In a three day span the athletes will compete against the Oregon Ducks, Ole Miss Rebels, Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Texas Longhorns. The team will be looking to build upon the momentum it gathered by going 3-1 last weekend, especially senior Mariah Garcia, whose performance last week earned her the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week honor.

The Cougars will start their weekend against the No. 3 Oregon Ducks, who are 6-0 going into the tournament. Of their six wins, each has come by at least five runs, with five of the six being called off early due to the “mercy rule.”

The Ducks are averaging slightly over 12 runs per game while only giving up an average of two runs per game. There are 14 players on the Ducks roster, and 13 of them are hitting above a .300 average. In the six games they have participated in, the Ducks have smashed 17 home runs, led by senior Gwen Svekis with five.

Sophomore Miranda Elish is the Ducks’ leading pitcher in the early portion of the season, already starting and finishing two complete games and appearing in a third while giving up zero earned runs.

From a purely statistical standpoint, the Ducks are by far the Cougars’ toughest match-up this weekend.

After taking on the Ducks, the Cougars will have to turn around and face the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels, who are 3-1 on the season. In their four games, the Rebels have put an average of 3.75 runs on the board while only giving up 1.5 runs per game. On offense, the Rebels are led by senior Elantra Cox, who has already secured her first triple of the season and accumulated three stolen bases on only four attempts.

When it comes to pitching, the Rebels seem to be turning to senior Kaitlin Lee and sophomore Morgan Bruce, who have a 0.78 and 0.88 earned-run-average respectively. They have each only allowed one run while pitching at least eight innings each.

After two games against Top 25 teams, the Cougars will get a relative break by going into their third game of the weekend against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are 2-3 on the season, but their games have been on every end of the spectrum. They have lost in blowout fashion (10-0 against Cal Riverside), lost close (6-5 against Cal State Fullerton), and won via a blowout (7-0 v. Middle Tennessee and 11-5 v. Utah State).

Rutgers is led by senior Rebecca Hall, who has gone seven of 16 at the plate with five of those hits going for multiple bases. The Scarlet Knights’ best pitcher thus far is Whitney Jones, but she’s the only pitcher on the team who is under a 3.50 ERA. Jones has allowed as many runs as she has garnered strikeouts, with five of each.

The Cougars will wrap up the weekend by squaring off against the Texas Longhorns (2-2) on Saturday evening. The Longhorns have relied on freshman Janae Jefferson, who does not have any home runs to her name this season but has five RBIs in only 12 at-bats.

Texas is .500 on the season, but it has actually been outscored by two runs thus far. The Longhorns’ most efficient pitcher to this point is senior Paige von Sprecken, who is 1-0 as a starter, while maintaining a 0.91 ERA with seven strikeouts to only one walk and one earned run in 7.2 innings pitched.

The Cougars are currently in first place in the American Athletic Conference. The Cougars will return home to play in the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational beginning Feb. 23.

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