(Photo by Katie Manuma)
PROVO, Utah – Following it’s first 40-win season since 2012, BYU softball looks back on a successful season with plenty to look forward to in the future.
The Cougars finished 40-14 overall and 13-2 in West Coast Conference play in 2015 for its ninth 40-win season and its third-highest winning percentage in school history at .741. The team also posted it’s second-best conference winning percentage with .867 en route to it’s seventh consecutive conference title and it’s 11th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
Beginning the season at the Kajikawa Classic, BYU went 2-3 before winning four out of five in the DeMarini Desert Classic in Las Vegas, including a walkoff win over Hawaii and a 5-1 win over Northwestern to avenge a 2014 NCAA tournament loss.
In the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, BYU sparked an eight-game winning streak that included a run-rule victory over Oregon State and four wins at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge the following weekend. The victories are the first in a game played outside of the United States in NCAA softball history.
In the final game of the San Diego Classic II, the team won a 4-1 decision over Connecticut for head coach Gordon Eakin’s 500th career victory, who was later named WCC Coach of the Year.
BYU opened the home slate with a series sweep over the Big 12’s Oklahoma State that included two mercy-rule wins.
Following a loss to UVU, the Cougars began a win streak of 10 games including conference sweeps of Saint Mary’s and Pacific.
The sweep over the Tigers featured an offensive clinic with sophomore Ashley Thompson tying the BYU record for hits in a game with her 5-for-5 performance in game two.
BYU then separated itself from the pack in the conference race by sweeping San Diego at home before clinching the WCC outright with four conference games to go after the first two of three wins at Santa Clara.
The Cougars then beat UVU as McKenna Bull notched her record-breaking 33rd victory of the season prior to BYU’s final WCC series.
For the third time in four years, BYU traveled to Eugene, Oregon, to compete in NCAA Regionals. The Cougars fell to the No. 2 overall seed University of Oregon in the first day. In day two, BYU avoided elimination in the first game with an 8-7 win over Fresno State, sending the Bulldogs home before being eliminated by North Dakota State.
Several players etched their names into the BYU softball record book this season in hitting and pitching as the team batted a collective .328 to rank No. 23 in the NCAA.
Senior outfielder Lacey Hofstedt put together her best collegiate softball season as she garnered Capital One Academic All-America® third team honors, becoming the first BYU student-athlete since 2012 to receive the recognition. The senior slapper finished the season ranked No. 38 in the nation in batting and 63rd in stolen bases per game.
She registered in the top five in five offensive categories in the WCC. In conference action, she led from the plate with a .512 clip and was No. 1 in stolen bases with eight, while also ranking second in on-base percentage (.553) and hits (22) with a No. 3 finish in runs scored (15).
Hofstedt recorded the third-highest batting average for a single season in school history with .435 while tying her own BYU single-season record for stolen bases with 25 and increased her hold on the school’s career stolen bases record, finishing with 79 at the conclusion of her career.
Sophomore pitcher Bull had a stellar season in the circle with a 34-9 win-loss mark with a 2.31 ERA, ranking No. 2 in the NCAA in victories, 21st in the country in strikeouts and tied for No. 21 in shutouts among all division I pitchers. She was recognized with WCC Pitcher of the Year, All-WCC First Team and NFCA All-Pacific Region Third Team honors, while collecting WCC Pitcher of the Week four times during the season.
Bull set BYU single-season records for wins (34), strikeouts (256), innings pitched (257.1) and complete games (29). She tied the school single-season record for shutouts (8), record for strikeouts in a single game (14-twice) and career saves (8). In conference play, she led in strikeouts (64), ERA (1.55), opponent average (.171), games started (12) and wins with an 11-0 record.
Junior leadoff hitter and centerfielder Gordy Bravo was named the WCC Player of the Year and earned NFCA All-Pacific Region Third Team accolades with her productive 2015 season ranking No. 19 in the nation in batting average and tied for No. 60 in on-base percentage.
Bravo hit .444 with four home runs, two triples, nine doubles, 76 hits and 30 RBI, notching the second best single-season average in school history. With her batting average reaching as high as 11th in the nation, she led the WCC in hits (24), runs (20) and on-base percentage (.569) and was second in batting (.490) and total bases (33) while recording a career-long 26-game reached base streak.
Catcher Sydney Broderick tied for No. 32 in the nation for toughest to strike out while designated player McKenzie St. Clair tied for No. 24 in sacrifice flies. Outfielder Mercedes O’Connor was No. 20 in sacrifice hits per game while second baseman Lauren Bell was tied for 24th in the same category.
With the addition of a strong signing class, BYU softball will return nine of its starters for next season as it looks to make a deeper run in the NCAA tournament in 2016.