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Four years ago, Brooke Cadiente began her quiet adventure into the brave new world of BYU softball.
The ride has been "crazy fun," she says, but after the team wraps up the Mountain West Conference tournament and possibly embarks on its second trip to the NCAA tourney, it will all be over.
Cadiente is the first four-year letterman in the history of the BYU softball program, and she's the only remaining player from the inaugural team four years ago that, despite going 16-27, set the table for an NCAA tournament appearance in the Cougars' second year.
BYU assistant coach Mindy Hansen and head coach Gordon Eakin were both with the team for that first bold journey when no one on the team or coaching staff knew exactly what to expect, but both were filling different roles.
"It (that first year) was tough, getting the set schedule," Cadiente remembered. "Traveling arrangements were always adventurous. That first year, we lost my coach's luggage and cell phone, and we left a camera at a field.
"We got one hotel, where we accidentally got put on the smoking floor, and a bunch of us were playing with headaches that night," she laughed. "It was just crazy hectic because it was the first time traveling to some of the places. It was nuts."
Beginning the season, it was also tough because most of the players had been recruited as junior college transfers from Ricks College and UVSC, "and they were rivals and hated each other, but they all became friends by the end."
She recalls that team as having a lot of competitive spirit, which led directly into the second season when the team "had a ton of heart" and plenty of wins. The final record was 35-26, including the two losses in the NCAAs.
This year's team has already topped that season's winning percentage and hits the conference tournament with 33 wins. "If we show up to play, there's not a team that can touch us," said Cadiente with the competitive spirit for which she's noted. "Our hitters are far too powerful."
That competitive fire won her this year's Competitor Award from the Cougar Club, along with Mountain West Conference MVP two years ago and a place on that season's first-team All-West region. She's also had her share of MWC Player of the Week honors.
"She's not in it for the stats or the accolades," insists her father, Ron. "She just wants to be a significant contributor and help the team. She's not in it for the glory."
Though she just wants to win, the stats seem to take care of themselves.
In her first competitive fast-pitch softball game, her father notes, she hit a double against one of the best pitchers in Phoenix. She's also had a pair of two-home run games in college ball and a couple of grand slams.
In this year's home opener against Utah State, she went a perfect 7-7 with a home run, two triples, two doubles, nine RBIs and six runs.
Both she and her father remember a game against Nebraska when the Cornhuskers intentionally walked power-hitter Oli Keohohou to load the bases. Cadiente went up to bat and hit the first pitch over the center field wall for a grand slam that tied the game.
Eakin notes Cadiente's bat has "often made them [opposing teams] pay for giving us that extra base [when they walk Keohohou], because we have Brooke lurking behind her."
"I'm a hitter. I love to hit," Cadiente said. But her adventurous spirit has also taken her far from the softball diamond and into a few wild experiences her father would rather she'd have skipped.
He recounted one visit with his daughter when he saw a picture of someone hang-gliding and asked her who it was. She said in her unassuming manner that it was she. He found out in the same way that she'd also been cliff-diving.
Now he just laughs as he tells those stories about the daughter he's always supported with his whole heart.
Even now that she's in college, her parents try to fly from their Mesa, Ariz., home to as many of their daughter's games, home and away, that they possibly can. "My parents hate it if they can't come to one of my games. . . . "
"They're my parents, but then they're also my best friends. They [come to games] because they love me and they want to be there for me.
"Who I am and who I've become I attribute to my parents for their devotion to me in helping me become the best I can, and I thank God for giving me the talents which I have."
As the fourth of five children, Cadiente doesn't know what the future holds, but she will attend BYU for one more year and graduate in visual arts.
Her father concluded that his daughter, the girl who wore an "I'm a little BYU Cougar" sweatshirt when she was a small child, "has had a great time at BYU, and she's not looking forward to seeing it all end."