(Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – BYU softball had one of its most successful seasons in program history in 2017, breaking multiple records and extending consecutive streaks of conference championships and NCAA Regionals appearances.
The Cougars tied the program record for wins and losses in 2017 with their 46-13 record. They were undefeated at home for just the second time at Miller Park with a 16-0 mark. BYU continued to build on the success it has achieved as a program over the years, winning its ninth-straight conference title with a 14-1 record in West Coast Conference play and advancing to the NCAA Regionals for the 13th year in a row.
History was also made in 2017 as the Cougars set many records. They were ranked for 12 weeks of the season, surpassing the previous high of four weeks in 2010. The team finished the season ranked No. 21 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Top 25 Coaches Poll and No. 20 in the NCAA Women’s Softball RPI. Additionally, the Cougars won 22 games in a row to easily exceed the previous best of 16-consecutive victories.
BYU had big wins this year with triumphs over top-25 teams Washington, Georgia and Utah. The Cougars were also 13-9 against teams with a 75 or better RPI. They played 12 teams that made the NCAA Regionals in 2017, including eight super regionals teams and five that advanced to the Women’s College World Series. Early-season foe Oklahoma went on to win the 2017 WCWS Championship.
Multiple players received recognitions for their hard work throughout the season. For the first time since 2012, BYU had an NFCA All-American in McKenna Bull, who received third-team honors. Additionally, Bull, Caitlyn Larsen Alldredge and Libby Sugg were all named to the NFCA All-Pacific Region First Team and Rylee Jensen was named to the third team. Jensen was also named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA National Player of the Week after a particularly strong week.
In the WCC postseason awards, BYU took home the WCC Player, Pitcher and Coach of the Year for the third-straight year, with Alldredge, Bull and Gordon Eakin winning those awards, respectively. The WCC Defensive Player of the Year went to Lauren Bell for the second year in a row, and Jensen won BYU’s second WCC Freshman of the Year nod. Alldredge, Bull, Jensen and Alexa Strid were on the All-WCC First Team; Briielle Breland, Sugg and Ashley Thompson were on the second team; and Bell and Lexi Tarrow were honorable mentions.
The 2017 season started off with an international trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to face some of the top competition in the nation. BYU went 2-2 that weekend, winning the season opener against Nebraska and upsetting then-No.13 Washington. Bell, Bull, Jensen and Sugg were named to the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge All-Tournament Team.
The next big win came against then-No.11 Georgia in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. BYU also picked up a solid 4-0 win over Louisville on that trip. Following that tournament, the Cougars won 14 of their next 16 games, including nine in a row.
BYU’s home-opening doubleheader against Maine started the Cougars on a five-game home stand. They won all five games, including a 4-2 win over then-No. 11 Utah. Sugg’s pair of two-run homers led the way for BYU in that win.
A narrow loss on the road to No. 1 Oregon on March 30 was the last setback for BYU for more than a month. The Cougars went on to win 22 games in a row, 11 of which were on the road. They swept four WCC series, including a run-rule sweep of San Diego in Provo and the championship-clinching wins at Santa Clara. The streak came to an end at Saint Mary’s in a 1-0 walk-off win for the Gaels.
BYU was sent to Salt Lake City for the NCAA Regionals. After defeating Mississippi State 8-0 in six innings in the first game, the Cougars fell to the host-team Utes 3-2 in walk-off fashion. BYU bounced back to defeat Fordham and move on to the final day, but the season ended with a loss to Utah. The Cougars have now won at least one game in the postseason each of the past four years and in 12 of 14 total regionals appearances.
Bull had a phenomenal senior season to cap off her BYU career. During the 22-game win streak, Bull pitched 57.2-straight scoreless innings, smashing the BYU record by 33 innings. In addition to her All-American and all-region honors and being named WCC Pitcher of the Year, she was named to the All-WCC First Team and was the WCC Pitcher of the Week nine times. She broke BYU single-season records for ERA (1.37) and shutouts (12). Against Miami, she broke the BYU career strikeout record. She also broke the BYU career wins record against Dartmouth.
Two other seniors had notable finishes for the Cougars. Thompson was one of three players to start every game, holding down first base. She recorded the second-most stolen bases in a game by a BYU player with three against Miami. Bell earned her WCC Defensive Player of the Year nod after a solid year at second base. Both Thompson and Bell were named to the All-WCC Academic Team. Additionally, they finished in the top 10 in career runs and hits at BYU.
The fourth senior to finish her BYU career was McKenzie St. Clair. She was a key contributor in pinch-hitting and was an honorable mention on the WCC All-Academic Team. The four seniors were important contributors to the success of the program over their careers in Provo.
Jensen, a freshman outfielder, had a strong first year. Along with her all-region and WCC Freshman of the Year nods, she was also named to the All-WCC First Team and was the WCC Player of the Week twice. In her collegiate debut against Nebraska, she went 4 for 4, which was the best start by a BYU freshman in program history. She tied the BYU record for doubles in a game with three in the win over Nevada, adding her name in the record books just seven games into her career.
A few sophomores came up big for the Cougars in 2017. Sugg continued her slugging prowess, leading the team in RBI (56), home runs (13) and slugging percentage (.669). She had 10 games with three or more RBI. Tarrow, a utility player, had a breakout year offensively. She was first on the team in batting average (.395), hits (62) and on-base percentage (.495).
Aside from Thompson, the other two players to start every game in 2017 were Alldredge at third base and Strid at shortstop. Alldredge jumped her batting average from .250 in 2016 to .344 this year. Strid made the All-WCC First Team for the second year in a row.