BYU softball continued to build on the success it has achieved throughout the years with a 36-22 overall record in 2018, winning its 10th-straight conference title and advancing to the NCAA Regionals for the 14th year in a row.
The WCC Championship came down to the final weekend of the regular season as BYU and LMU battled for the crown. The teams had a conference record of 11-1 going into the series, both with a loss to Pacific. After the Lions hit a two-run homer early in the first game, the Cougars answered with a run of their own in the second frame to trail 2-1.
Seniors Alexa Strid and Madison Merrell later hit back-to-back home runs to center and left field, respectively, in the sixth inning to give BYU a 3-2 lead. With two outs in the final inning, Caitlyn Alldredge ended the game with an incredible diving catch into her own dugout, robbing a popped-up foul ball.
BYU clinched the conference title in the second game, scoring three runs in the first and cruising to an 8-0 victory in six innings. The Cougars then received an automatic berth to Eugene, Oregon, to compete in the NCAA Regionals. BYU couldn’t withstand a late comeback from Drake and narrowly fell, 3-2, in the first game of the tournament. The Cougars topped UAlbany, 16-0, on 13 hits in five innings the following day before falling to the Bulldogs a second time, 3-0.
Multiple players received national, regional and conference recognition for their hard work throughout the season. Junior catcher Libby Sugg was named an NFCA Third Team All-American, the program’s second in two years. She and freshman utility player Bridget Fleener earned NFCA All-Pacific Region Second Team nods, while sophomore outfielder Rylee Jensen and sophomore pitcher Kerisa Viramontes received third-team honors.
The Cougars represented well in the WCC postseason awards. Jensen and Viramontes were named the Player of the Year and Co-Pitcher of the Year, respectively, as BYU earned both honors for the fourth-straight season and every year it has been a member of the conference. Fleener also earned the Cougars’ second-consecutive Freshman of the Year award. Sugg, Jensen, Fleener and Lexi Tarrow received All-WCC First Team honors, while Viramontes, Strid and Autumn Moffat were on the All-WCC Second Team. Briielle Breland and Merrell were honorable mentions.
Sugg, Breland and Brooke Vander Heide were also named to the WCC Softball All-Academic Team after earning at least a cumulative 3.20 GPA and contributing significantly to the team.
Additionally, BYU earned a couple of big non-conference wins this season. The Cougars beat a top-25 team in then-ranked No. 13/14 Baylor, 3-1, at the LSU Round Robin in March. They came back from a 1-0 deficit as Alldredge and Merrell hit back-to-back dingers to take a 2-1 advantage. A wild pitch brought Breland home from third to seal the victory.
Midway through the season, solid hitting and pitching gave BYU a 5-2 win over in-state rival Utah in the Deseret First Duel. The Cougars outhit the Utes, 10-6, and capitalized on two Ute errors. Jensen and Fleener each went 3-for-4, with each hitting a double and two singles. Fleener contributed three RBIs as well. Viramontes and Moffat shared pitching duties and recorded four strikeouts each from the circle.
Two Cougars’ defensive plays made daily SportsCenter Top 10 lists and were featured in espnW’s Top 10 softball plays of the year. Alldredge’s diving catch into the dugout to end the first game of the LMU series came in at No. 4. Earlier in the season, Jensen robbed a would-be walk-off home run in the ninth inning against LSU, making the #SCTop10 at No. 9.
Sugg continued her slugging prowess, leading the team in several categories, including batting average (.414), RBIs (67), hits (65), doubles (13), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.707) and on-base percentage (.500). The catcher had 10 games with three or more RBIs, including four games with four RBIs.
She also moved up in the BYU all-time record book in numerous categories: No. 2 in on-base percentage (.455), No. 3 in career slugging percentage (.700), No. 5 in career RBIs (181), No. 6 in career home runs (42), No. 7 in career batting average (.362) and No. 10 in career doubles (35).4 comments on this story
Fleener was second on the team in batting average with a .378 in her first year of collegiate play. She tied for first in triples with two and was second in slugging percentage (.571) and on-base percentage (.440).
Jensen, the leadoff hitter, led the Cougars in runs with 57, while Viramontes finished the season with a record of 19-6 from the circle and a 2.11 ERA.
Five seniors concluded their outstanding careers for the Cougars in 2018, including Alldredge (third base), Breland (second base), Merrell (first base), Arianna Paulson (pitcher) and Strid (shortstop).