She comes from a competitive family and I’m sure it’s in her nature. Once you get to this level you have to rise above it and take training in learning how to spin the ball consistently. She’s done that. —BYU pitching coach Pete Meredith
Don’t get in her crosshairs, down range of her gun.
McKenna Bull is a polite, unassuming young woman you’d consider to be a valiant soul, charitable gift giver, a personality who laughs easily and is fun to be around. But put her on a pitcher’s mound with a softball and she’s a stingy wrecking machine, a nightmare for would-be batters.
She piles up wins in batches. Nobody in BYU history has more.
The BYU sophomore from Ogden is in her final games of the season this weekend in a series at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. As WCC champions, the Cougars should advance to NCAA regionals.
This should give Bull plenty of opportunities to add to her school-record win total (33) heading into this weekend. She’s chasing Marshall’s Jordan Dixon and San Diego State’s Erica Romero for most wins in Division I, but they have more appearances than Bull.
So, what makes Bull so productive?
Hard work and talent, according to BYU pitching coach Pete Meredith.
“A lot of it has to do with desire and passion, wanting to do good,” said Meredith, who has seen Bull’s speed increase from 61 miles an hour to 65 the past two years.
“You have to have the fire inside to constantly improve and that’s always a given for McKenna. She’s always been a sponge, thirsty for information and she works hard. In the offseason she does an amazing job and knows she needs to improve. She acknowledges she’s just scratching the surface and she wants to be the best.”
Bull throws a riser, a wicked screwball that cuts towards a right-handed batter. Her curveball effectively does the opposite and she has a nifty change-up. She’s also a workhorse and has pitched more than 30 innings some weekends.
A key is her confidence. As she stands on the mound she can be intimidating by how she carries herself and believes in herself. Bull had 25 wins this season before BYU played a conference game.
“Obviously I don’t want (hitters) to have any confidence. I want to keep them on their heels and off balance, so they can’t get a hit," Bull said. "I guess you could call that an intimidation factor of sorts.”
This, from a regular, fun-loving woman who enjoys the outdoors, swimming, hiking, and unwinding from a game by singing along while watching musicals on Netflix.
She knows her part is only a piece of the pie. “I have a really solid defense and I trust them. It’s easier to go out there knowing you have backup behind you.” A big key has been fellow sophomore catcher Sydney Broderick. The two play as one.
After a sterling freshman year, Bull said this sophomore season has been fun, but not complete. “I’m never satisfied. I know I have a lot of work to do to improve and that keeps me motivated.”
Meredith said Bull’s talent is in her DNA, but if it wasn’t for her desire to get better, she wouldn’t have BYU’s win record.
“I knew McKenna for a few years before she came to BYU. I had her in lessons and I knew then she was a very special kid because she was hungry and made adjustments. She comes from a competitive family and I’m sure it’s in her nature. Once you get to this level you have to rise above it and take training in learning how to spin the ball consistently. She’s done that.”
Meredith said Bull has had some games where she’s struggled to control her pitches. “But 90 percent of the time she has been in control, nailing her spots, moving the ball to those locations and getting hitters to go for her pitches, getting them to rise. When she’s doing that she’s a formidable force.”
A crosshair queen.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.