Once again, the 2003 softball team was about the powerful, long-ball offense, but the Cougars were unable to advance to the post season. BYU finished in the top 20 in team batting average (.305), runs scored (5.62), slugging percentage (.507), triples (.30) and home runs (60).
Gordon Eakin, in his first season as head coach, led the team to new records. The team won more games (36) and finished with the best win percentage in team history (.679). The Cougars also recorded the longest win streak (12) in school history. The team also produced two All-Americans for the first time in slugger Oli Keohohou and sophomore Lauren Watson.
Keohohou was voted Mountain West Conference Co-Player of the Year after leading the conference in virtually every offensive statistical category. Watson was just behind Keohohou in most of those categories including 66 hits and a double-digit performance with 10 home runs that earned her All-West Region and All-MWC honors.
BYU will definitely miss Brooke Cadiente, the first four-year letter-winner in school history with a powerful bat and indispensable leadership. The pitching staff will also lose experienced leadership in double-threat Cynthia Fallowfield and MWC Pitcher of the Week Mandy Flint.
Pitching coach Vaughn Alvey developed a confidence missing in the 2002 rotation as the team produced a 2.50 ERA. All four pitchers finished with an ERA under 3.0. The team looks forward to the return of former MWC Pitcher of the Week Ariel Capra, who returns from a redshirt season after completing full rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.
Two freshman sluggers from Hawai`i showed promise and poise in their first season on the mainland. Neta Le`i was honored to the All-MWC and All-West Region teams with a .346 batting average. Ashlyn Russell hit a home run in her first weekend of collegiate play and produced solid numbers despite playing through nagging injuries throughout most of the season.
The junior class of 2004 played a vital role in the team's success last year. Shortstop Kate Walker, Lindsey Gerhauser and Belinda Osborn all contributed both offensively and defensively after transferring into the Cougar program. Look for their leadership qualities to lead the Cougars far into the post-season this year.
Pitchers Niki Andersen and Brooke Boyce provide a bright look into the future of BYU softball. After a slow start, Andersen finished the season strong with two solid wins in the MWC Tourney. Boyce was the first Cougar pitcher ever to win MWC Pitcher of the Week in her freshman campaign. The freshman defensive specialist led the team in wins, ERA, appearances, and innings pitched. Experience is on the side of the rotation.
Keohohou was selected as an NFCA First-team All-American selection for the third consecutive season. The native of Newbury Park, Calif. has a chance to become the all-time leader in home runs, slugging percentage, and could finish in the top five in several categories including walks. She has 59 career home runs, 200 walks and a .968 slugging percentage in her incredible career.
After opening the season 2-2 after the annual Thunderbird Classic, the Cougars won seven of the next nine games to produce a 9-4 record for the best start in school history.
BYU then lost three straight games to top 25 programs, including a tough 6-0 loss to No. 1 UCLA. This prompted the record-breaking 12-game win streak that continued through non-season play to the MWC opener against Utah.
After snapping the win streak in the second game of the doubleheader against the Utes, the Cougars took their frustration out on Utah State hitting nine home runs in one day. In game one, the Cougars hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs then opened game two with three home runs by the first three batters on April Fool's Day.
BYU had a six game improvement from a 6-10 performance in MWC play in 2002 to a 10-7 record in conference play in 2003.
The Cougars continued strong throughout conference play going into the final day of the Mountain West Conference Tournament in San Diego. Unfortunately, the surging team lost to the No. 1 seed host Aztecs on a fly ball that was only feet from being a game-tying home run at centerfield.
Fine-tuning the pitching, continuing the improvement on team chemistry and a passion to play the game as stated in the team's mission statement will help the Cougars surprise the nation with hopes of a trip to the World Series in 2004 to let everybody know that BYU is now a softball school, too.