Following a fourth-straight West Coast Conference title and a 13th-consecutive NCAA Regional appearance in 2017, BYU softball looks to continue its tradition and make some noise in 2018.
The Cougars have been extremely consistent throughout the years, winning nine conference titles in nine years across four different conferences. In 13-straight NCAA Regional appearances, BYU has won at least one postseason game in all but one year (2013), including the program’s lone Super Regional appearance in 2010.
Looking to build on the success, BYU’s 2018 roster is packed with experience and leadership. There are five seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen on this year’s squad. In this group, eight had significant starting time last season and six have been all-WCC players.
“We can overcome injury or slumps because we have tremendous depth and talent,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “We have complete confidence in the depth and ability of our entire team.”
After last year, the Cougars lost key starters in pitcher McKenna Bull, first baseman Ashley Thompson and second baseman Lauren Bell.
Each position group possesses great depth in 2018 as multiple athletes have seen significant playing time in past seasons.
The catching position features a variety of players who can get the job done, led by junior team captain Libby Sugg. She will be joined by Emilee Erickson, as well as incoming freshmen Bridget Fleener and Morgan Bevell.
Sugg earned NFCA All-Pacific Region First-Team honors and was named to the All-West Coast Conference Second Team last season. She led the team in RBIs and home runs with 56 and 13, respectively, while hitting .356. Sugg could also see playing time at first base.
Erickson brings experience behind the plate after sitting out last season with an injury. She hit .280 in 2016, tallying 12 RBIs and 21 hits.
Fleener displayed offensive skills during fall competition as a catcher and the designated player. Bevell was injured for most of the fall and is expected to contribute in practices and games.
Senior captains Caitlyn Alldredge, Alexa Strid and Briielle Breland return for their final season to anchor the infield at third base, shortstop and second base, respectively. Alldredge and Strid earned 2017 All-WCC First-Team honors, while Breland was named to the All-WCC Second Team.
A NFCA All-Pacific Region First-Team selection, Alldredge also reigns as the WCC Player of the Year. She improved her batting average from .250 in 2016 to .344 this past season.
Strid started all 59 games last season, recording 32 RBIs, 10 doubles and five home runs on the year. With the loss of Bell, Breland will fill the gap at second base. She followed close behind Strid in RBIs with 29, to go along with six doubles and five home runs.
In the absence of Thompson, junior Allie Hancock and sophomore Arissa Paulson will share duties at first base, along with Sugg in the mix.
Freshmen Martha Epenesa, Marissa Chavez and Erin Miklus could all see time in the infield. Epenesa had a solid fall campaign at third, while shortstop Chavez played well defensively and at the plate. Second baseman Miklus hits left-handed, brings speed and is a tough, gritty player.
“As other players gain experience, the inter-team competition will be valuable and healthy in building a championship-type team,” Eakin said.
Last season’s WCC Co-Freshman of the Year, Rylee Jensen, returns to left field after hitting .338 and recording 34 RBIs.
Sophomore Brooke Vander Heide will continue to start in center field. Last year, Vander Heide was second on the team in stolen bases with 10 and hit .340.
Returning players Lexi Tarrow, Madison Merrell and Ashley Godfrey will all see time in right field. Tarrow’s skills will also be utilized as the designated player, while Merrell could contribute in center field as well. Godfrey is a very versatile player who could also play third, short and second.
With the loss of NFCA All-American and three-time WCC Pitcher of the Year McKenna Bull in the circle, BYU looks to fill the gap with a strong and versatile pitching staff. Arissa Paulson, Arianna Paulson, Olivia Sanchez and Kerisa Viramontes all saw action in 2017.
Arissa Paulson finished a strong freshman campaign with an 11-3 record and 2.81 ERA, while Arianna Paulson had her first career shutout against Detroit Mercy. Sanchez pitched one inning at Santa Clara to seal the win. Viramontes threw a no-hitter in her collegiate debut against Nevada and finished the year with a 2-2 record.
Freshman Autumn Moffat also joins the pitching staff after posting a 17-1 record and 1.51 ERA as a senior in high school.
“We feel we’re getting results from the different skill sets each of them brings to the table,” associate head coach Pete Meredith said. “We’re very confident in our upcoming season, and we’ll work hard to maintain a good status moving forward.”
The 2018 season begins with the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, on Thursday, Feb. 8. The Cougars open against Stanford at 2:30 p.m. MST, which will be televised live on the Pac-12 Network.