Tabitha Sumsion, BYU Photo
Alexa Strid hits the ball against Southern Utah earlier this season. BYU opens conference play against Santa Clara this weekend after a quick trip to Utah State on Tuesday.

West Coast Conference play begins this weekend with BYU softball hosting Santa Clara after a quick trip to Utah State on Tuesday.

The reigning four-time WCC champion Cougars (17-18, 0-0 WCC) look to defend their title. They will travel to Logan, Utah, on Tuesday, April 3, to play Utah State (13-18, 3-6 Mountain West Conference) at 4 p.m. MDT, before hosting the Broncos (5-23, 0-0 WCC) in a three-game series. BYU and Santa Clara face off in a doubleheader on Friday, April 6, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., and then again Saturday, April 7, at 1 p.m.

The matchup against the Aggies will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network. Both of Friday’s games against the Broncos will be televised on BYUtv, while Saturday’s game can be streamed live on Live stats will be available for all games on the BYU softball schedule page.

BYU storylines

BYU ranks No. 19 nationally and No. 1 in the WCC in home runs per game with 1.09. Eleven Cougars have hit 38 homers in 35 games so far this season, led by Libby Sugg’s seven. Rylee Jensen follows with six, while Caitlyn Alldredge and Briielle Breland have hit five. Lexi Tarrow, Bridget Fleener and Alexa Strid have hit three apiece. Allie Hancock and Madison Merrell both have two. Ashley Godfrey and Emilee Erickson have also hit dingers.

Junior catcher and team captain Sugg has been named to the 2018 USA Softball College Player of the Year Watch List. She earned NFCA All-Pacific Region First Team honors and was named to the All-WCC Second Team last season. Sugg led the team in RBIs and home runs with 56 and 13, respectively, while hitting .356 in 2017.

Opponents outlook

Utah State

The Aggies are 13-18 this season and 3-6 in Mountain West play. They went 2-1 against conference foe Nevada last week. BYU leads the overall series, 37-2, winning 4-1 in Provo and 8-6 in Logan last year. The teams have played every year since the Cougars’ first season in 2000, except for 2009. Steve Johnson is in his fifth year as head coach at Utah State and has compiled a record of 96-116 in four seasons there.

Santa Clara

The Broncos have a 5-23 overall record in 2018, having gone 1-2 in the Matador Classic. They split games with Georgia Tech and fell to Cal Poly. The Cougars lead the overall series, 19-2, most recently sweeping the series, 3-0, in 2017. Head coach Lisa Dodd enters her first year at the helm of the Santa Clara program. She has both played and coached in the Pac-12 and spent the last five years as the head coach at UNLV, earning 121 wins.