2024 Big 12 Softball Week 1 Schedule and Preview

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

The 2024 college softball season is upon us, with every team in the Big 12 getting their season kicked off this week in tournaments around the country, and some even outside of it.

The league looks a bit different this year, as the Big 12 welcomes BYU, Houston, and UCF to the party for the first time. It’s a transitional year for the league, as the conference will wave goodbye to Oklahoma and Texas following this season while it gets set to welcome Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah to the league next year.

For now, we’ve got an incredible season ahead of us in 2024 and a lot to be excited about, so let’s get to it.

Here’s a look at what the first week of action holds for all 10 squads.

 

The three-time defending national champions will start the 2024 season as the favorites to make it four straight despite losing the top player in college softball, now Nebraska ace Jordy Bahl. The Sooners did add a plethora of talent to make up for the loss though, including two-time All-American Kelly Maxwell, who joins a roster still mostly intact after a 61-1 record in 2023. OU will kick off its season at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There, they’ll face Utah Valley on Thursday before taking on No. 9 Duke (Thu) to finish out a double-header. Then, the Sooners will take on No. 10 Washington (Fri), and Long Beach State (Sat) to finish out their opening weekend. Carrying an NCAA-record 53-game winning streak into the year, OU will immediately face some of the top challengers for the 2024 crown. Washington was a Women’s College World Series team last season, and Duke was arguably the best team not to make it after running into a red-hot Stanford team led by NiJaree Canady.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
Utah Valley Feb 8 (Thu) 10:30 a.m. CT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico FloSoftball
#9 Duke Feb 8 (Thu) 1:00 p.m. CT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico FloSoftball
#10 Washington Feb 9 (Fri) 8:30 p.m. CT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico FloSoftball
Long Beach State Feb 10 (Sat) 1:00 p.m. CT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico FloSoftball

Texas’ 2023 season ended in the Knoxville Super Regional, as a young Longhorns team fell to the fourth-ranked Lady Volunteers. Still, the team finished 45-15-1 and returns a stable of playmakers who are ready to take a leap in their sophomore years. After dominating All-Freshman lists across all platforms, Texas returns star sophomores Ashton Maloney, Reese Atwood, Viviana Martinez, Leighann Goode, and Citlaly Gutierrez, alongside upperclassmen Mia Scott, Katie Cimusz, and Alyssa Washington, among others. Add to that the addition of First-Team All-ACC selection Joley Mitchell (Notre Dame) and you’ve got the makings of a true contender. Texas will get its first week of games underway out in California at the Stacy Winsberg Tournament (Fri) and the Mark Campbell Invitational (Sat, Sun), where they’ll face No. 8 UCLA not once, but twice.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
San Diego Feb 9 (Fri) 2:30 p.m. CT Los Angeles, CA
#8 UCLA Feb 9 (Fri) 8:00 p.m. CT Los Angeles, CA ESPN
San Diego Feb 10 (Sat) 5:00 p.m. CT Irvine, CA FloSoftball
#8 UCLA Feb 10 (Sat) 1:00 p.m. CT Irvine, CA FloSoftball
LMU Feb 11 (Sun) 2:00 p.m. CT Irvine, CA

 

Oklahoma State made its fourth consecutive Women’s College World Series appearance last season and has been one of the most successful teams in the country during its time under Kenny Gajewski. Entering his seventh season, Gajewski will have to replace several playmakers from last year’s roster, but has some impressive portal talent for this cycle, including Liberty transfer pitcher Caroline Wang, a two-time first-team All-ASUN selection and the winner of back-to-back ASUN Player of the Year awards. The Cowgirls will begin the 2024 season with a standalone game against CSUN on Thursday before heading to the Lynn Russell Miller Classic, where they’ll face Portland State, Utah State, UC Riverside, and then No. 8 UCLA to cap off the weekend. With four games to get the rotation and order squared away, Oklahoma State should have a good idea where it stands going into its battle with the Bruins, and certainly where it stands afterward.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
CSUN Feb 8 (Thu) 3:00 p.m. CT Northridge, CA ESPN+
Portland State Feb 9 (Fri) 11:00 a.m. CT Los Angeles, CA
Utah State Feb 10 (Sat) 11:00 a.m. CT Irvine, CA
UC Riverside Feb 10 (Sat) 1:30 p.m. CT Irvine, CA
#8 UCLA Feb 11 (Sun) 3:00 p.m. CT Irvine, CA ESPN+

Baylor is one of the teams with a chance to surprise a lot of people in 2024, and that could start in the first weekend of action. Glenn Moore returns the vast majority of production from a group that made a trip to Salt Lake City for the NCAA Regionals last season. Shaylon Govan and Dariana Orme return after stealing the show in Waco last season, but they’ll get Aliyah Binford back in the circle, as will as McKenzie Wilson in the outfield. Baylor starts the season off with the toughest weekend of any team in the Big 12 though, as they’ll play host to No. 2 Tennessee for a three-game series in the Getterman Classic. The Bears aren’t scared of the matchup though, as they went into Knoxville late last season and went 2-0 against the Lady Vols. This is an immediate litmus test for Baylor, and being competitive in this series would be a huge springboard for the season to come.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
#2 Tennessee Feb 9 (Fri) 6:30 p.m. CT Waco, TX ESPN+
#2 Tennessee Feb 10 (Sat) 11:00 a.m. CT Waco, TX ESPN+
#2 Tennessee Feb 11 (Sun) 11:00 a.m. CT Waco, TX ESPN+

 

UCF will join the Big 12 as the newcomer that is best attributed to become a contender right away in the 2024 Big 12 title. The Knights are coming off an AAC Torunament Championship and NCAA Tournament bid in 2023 and have virtually all of their experience returning for Year 1 in their new league. Sarah Willis, Jada Cody, and Chloe Evans give UCF three of the top 20 players in the Big 12 entering the season and with plenty of promising talent behind them, the Knights are a perfect contender to play spoiler in the conference race. The Knights are set to host the Black & Gold Classic in Orlando this weekend, where they’ll face Howard and UConn on Thursday, followed Seattle (Fri), UConn (Sat), and Georgia State (Sun) over the next three days.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
Howard Feb 8 (Thu) 4:30 p.m. ET Orlando, FL ESPN+
UConn Feb 8 (Thu) 7:00 p.m. ET Orlando, FL ESPN+
Seattle Feb 9 (Fri) 6:00 p.m. ET Orlando, FL ESPN+
UConn Feb 10 (Sat) 5:30 p.m. ET Orlando, FL ESPN+
Georgia State Feb 11 (Sun) 12:00 p.m. ET Orlando, FL ESPN+

As a longtime powerhouse in the West Coast Conference, BYU softball has found plenty of success as a program over the past two decades. Since Gordon Eakin took over in 2003, the Cougars have won 15 of 20 possible conference titles over four different leagues and haven’t finished worse than second since his second season (finished 3rd in MWC in first two seasons). Now, the Cougars will make a significant jump to the Big 12, but the expectation is to remain competitive despite the increase in competition. This program has made the NCAA Tournament 16 years in a row and was the NISC Runner-Up last season. The 2024 season provides a chance for BYU to take their program to the next step, and that all begins this week in the Paradise Classic, held in Mānoa, Hawai’i. There, BYU will face Kansas City (x2), Ole Miss, Nevada, and the home-team Rainbow Warriors.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
Kansas City (MO) Feb 8 (Thu) 1:30 p.m. MST Mānoa, Hawai’i
Ole Miss Feb 8 (Thu) 4:00 p.m. MST Mānoa, Hawai’i
Nevada Feb 9 (Fri) 1:30 p.m. MST Mānoa, Hawai’i
Kansas City (MO) Feb 10 (Sat) 4:00 p.m. MST Mānoa, Hawai’i
Hawai’i Feb 10 (Sat) 6:30 p.m. MST Mānoa, Hawai’i

Craig Snider made lemonade in 2023, going 31-22 after inheriting a team that was coming off back-to-back losing seasons. Still, a 5-13 record in Big 12 play isn’t going to cut it and they’ll need to find a couple more reliable arms if the Red Raiders are going to be serious contenders in the conference race. Kailey Wyckoff is an All-Big 12 talent, but she’ll need help from a group of freshmen and transfers to get TTU back to softball prominence. The first weekend of games provides Texas Tech with two favorable matchups (FAMU), two challenging games (Charlotte) and an extremely stiff test against No. 4 Florida State in the FSU Tournament in Tallahassee.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
FAMU Feb 9 (Fri) 2:00 p.m. CT Tallahassee, FL
FAMU Feb 9 (Fri) 4:00 p.m. CT Tallahassee, FL
Charlotte Feb 10 (Sat) 9:00 a.m. CT Tallahassee, FL
#4 Florida State Feb 10 (Sat) 12:00 p.m. CT Tallahassee, FL ACC Network
Charlotte Feb 11 (Sun) 9:00 a.m. CT Tallahassee, FL

KU finished just shy of .500 a season ago (25-27), showing significant signs of improvement after going 20-36 the year prior. Head coach Jennifer McFalls received a contract extension after the 2023 season, with two of the Jayhawks’ final three victories came against ranked opponents (#18 Wichita State, #8 Oklahoma State in Big 12 Tournament). In 2024, Kansas returns each of its top six batters and every pitcher who started a game last season, including Lizzy Ludwig. Olivia Bruno and Lyric Moore will need to keep the offense consistent and the team ERA (3.82, 179th nationally) needs to improve, but KU has proven it can play with a lot of teams when they don’t make mistakes. They’ll get an immediate test out of the game in the NFCA Leadoff Classic, drawing No. 15 Oregon in the first of six games over four days.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
#15 Oregon Feb 9 (Fri) 4:00 p.m. CT Clearwater, FL GameChanger
Ole Miss Feb 9 (Fri) 7:00 p.m. CT Clearwater, FL GameChanger
Nevada Feb 10 (Sat) 3:00 p.m. CT Clearwater, FL GameChanger
Kansas City (MO) Feb 10 (Sat) 6:00 p.m. CT Clearwater, FL GameChanger
Hawai’i Feb 11 (Sun) 12:00 a.m. CT Clearwater, FL GameChanger
USF Feb 12 (Mon) 5:00 p.m. CT Tampa, FL ESPN+

The Iowa State Cyclones will join the reigning national champions in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to open up the 2024 season at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. ISU finished the 2023 season playing some of its best softball, but couldn’t manage to get above .500, ending the year with a 25-30 record. With a few new faces in the lineup, as well as some familiar playmakers like Milaysia Ochoa, the Cyclones will hope to show they belong among the contenders with two games against top-10 opponents. If the schedule looks familiar, it’s because Iowa State will play the same opponents as Oklahoma does, just after the Sooners play them first.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
Utah Valley Feb 8 (Thu) 4:00 p.m. CT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico FloSoftball
#9 Duke Feb 9 (Fri) 10:00 a.m. CT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico FloSoftball
#10 Washington Feb 10 (Sat) 4:00 p.m. CT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico FloSoftball
Long Beach State Feb 11 (Sun) 9:30 p.m. CT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico FloSoftball

Houston didn’t have its best season in 2023, getting to 20-30 and missing out on the postseason in the American Athletic Conference. Now, the Cougars must elevate their game even further to compete in the Big 12, where there are likely five NCAA Tournament teams, and four of them that could make their way to Oklahoma City without much help. Turiya Coleman is certainly capable of being a catalyst for this team to turn over a new leaf, but she’s going to need some help if Houston is going to survive a daunting schedule. The Coogs start of the season hosting the Houston Invitational at Cougar Softball Stadium, with Colgate, Indiana State, and Rutgers coming to town.

OPPONENT DATE TIME LOCATION NETWORK
Colgate Feb 9 (Fri) 1:30 p.m. CT Houston, TX ESPN+
Indiana State Feb 9 (Fri) 4:00 p.m. CT Houston, TX ESPN+
Indiana State Feb 10 (Sat) 12:30 p.m. CT Houston, TX ESPN+
Rutgers Feb 10 (Sat) 3:00 p.m. CT Houston, TX ESPN+
Rutgers Feb 11 (Sun) 12:00 p.m. CT Houston, TX ESPN+