STILLWATER, Okla. — Lexi Tarrow was getting set to board the bus for practice at the NCAA regionals with her teammates when she learned of some news she wasn't expecting. BYU assistant softball Pete Meredith announced that he wanted to go over the West Coast Conference awards that had just been announced with many of those awards dealt out to the Cougars.
At the top of the list was the WCC Player of the Year, an award given to a BYU player every year since 2015 and won by Cougars outfielder Rylee Jensen the year before. This time around, Tarrow was tabbed as the top player in the conference, a designation she wasn't expecting.
"I try not to pay attention to stats and all those kind of things," the senior said. "So I knew I did well in conference, but I guess I didn't know just (how well), so yeah, it did come as a surprise. Obviously it was a good surprise."
Tarrow is helping lead the Cougars in their bid to get past the regional round in the NCAA for the first time since 2010. Although they've advanced to the tournament for 15 straight years, becoming one of the 16 teams to advance to the so-called Super Regional round has proven difficult.
That hurdle doesn't look any easier this time around with the Cougars (29-24) set to begin play in a regional hosted by No. 13 Oklahoma State (39-14). Arkansas (38-18) and Tulsa (38-15) are the other two teams that will start play Thursday with only one advancing out of the double-elimination format. BYU starts off play versus Oklahoma State on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. MDT time with the game being streamed live on ESPN3.
"It would be amazing to finally get to Super Regionals with this being my final year," Tarrow said. "So it would be a great thing for me to always remember and look back on. Sometimes you have to build on the opportunity you have and this is a great opportunity to do some damage."
Damaging the pitching in WCC play is something Tarrow did often this year, evidenced by her .488 batting average in conference play and .721 slugging percentage. Like a lot of seniors, she approached the season wanting to end things on the highest note possible, and while there are still at least three games left to play, Tarrow appears to be finishing out with her best season yet.
"It's great knowing all the hard work you put in can pay off," Tarrow said. "… I think a lot of it was just knowing this was my final year. There's so much negative in the game, so my goal was to just focus on the positives of each game. Focusing on the positive just helped me stay engaged and improve."
Tarrow hopes to carry that approach into the NCAA Tournament and knows her team is due to face much tougher competition than it has for some time.
"The big key is transitioning from conference play to taking on what is really top-level competition," she said. "The pitching and hitting is going to be better than we've seen for a while and rising up to meet that competition while showing we're just as good … will really help us push over the top."