(Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah—The BYU softball team finished the 2013 season with a 33-25 record, winning its seventh conference championship and earning a bid to its ninth-straight postseason.
Head coach Gordon Eakin completed his 11th season with the Cougars to increase his overall record to 449-200 at BYU. A three-time Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year from 2009-11, Eakin also garnered Pacific Coast Softball Conference Coach of the Year honors this season.
With a 19-5 record in PCSC play, the Cougars won the outright regular season championship to advance to the NCAA postseason. BYU is just one of 19 softball programs in the country to have made it to the last nine postseasons.
BYU earned the highest amount of all-conference nominations in the PCSC with eight players. Senior JC Clayton was voted co-Player of the Year while Gordy Bravo earned Freshman of the Year honors. Junior Katie Manuma, senior Bailie Hicken and senior Alexandra Shamo each joined Clayton and Bravo as first-team all-conference players. Senior Hannah Howell, junior Madisen Robb and freshman Coco Taualii also picked up second-team honors for the Cougars.
BYU went 9-15 in its five pre-season tournaments, but picked up the pace in a win against Marist in the home opener and completed a four-game sweep of San Diego to start conference play.
LMU came to Miller Park on Apr. 12 with the conference lead and outscored the Cougars 13-2 in Friday’s doubleheader. However, BYU needed to respond with two wins to hold onto its postseason hopes. With 20 runs on the day the Cougars capped off the four-game series with a perfect game thrown by Howell. Howell’s performance was just the second perfect game in BYU history.
Following the series against LMU, BYU won 14 of its last 15 games, including a four-game sweep of Saint Mary’s to clinch the conference championship.Tori Almond completed the sweep with the first no-hitter of her career to add to Howell's perfect game earlier in the year. The team then defeated Utah in the Deseret Duel to close out the regular season.
With a bid to its ninth-straight postseason, BYU was picked to play in the Eugene Regional against No. 3 Oregon for the second-straight year. The Cougars ended their season in Eugene with a 5-2 loss to No. 3 Oregon and a 6-0 loss to Wisconsin.
BYU will lose All-American Clayton, pitcher Howell, outfielder Shamo and utility outfielder Hicken. Sophomore catcher Anna Hudson will also be leaving in July to serve an LDS church mission. As a team, the Cougars set records in stolen bases and fielding percentage on the year with 88 and .966, respectively.
2014 will bring on a whole new set of faces as 11-year pitching coach Vaughn Alvey retires and six-year assistant Ianeta Le’i leaves to pursue other interests.
The team will return 13 players including six seniors, three juniors and four freshmen, while also welcoming five incoming freshman to the roster.