BYU Cougars finished softball season with bittersweet taste in their mouths, but optimistic about the future
BYU has won 10 straight league titles, but looking for more postseason success
PROVO — The BYU softball season ended in typical fashion late last month, which can be viewed as both a good thing and bad, although coaches and players are determined to reach atypical heights moving forward.
The Cougars' season ended with another tough loss in the NCAA regionals. Once again BYU proved competitive against top teams, much like other seasons, but ultimately came up short of reaching the Super Regional Round.
"We didn’t reach quite the level we thought we were capable of,” said BYU coach Gordon Eakin. “We felt we should have won the regional we went to, so even though we did have success we feel our abilities are so much higher than we reached this year.”
The Cougars were bounced from the regional round, losing to No. 13 Oklahoma State 3-1 and Tulsa 6-4 while defeating Arkansas by the score of 6-3.
Of course, just reaching the NCAA Tournament is a good measure of success, with the Cougars earning their 14th straight trip to the postseason after winning a 10th straight conference tournament. It's a feat Eakin doesn't want to diminish while at the same time working with his players to get over the regional round hurdle.
The good news is that BYU looks well-positioned to reach new heights in 2020. Replacing standout seniors such as Lexi Tarrow and Libby Sugg won't be an easy task, but the return of standouts like Rylee Jensen, Emilee Erickson, Taylei Williams and Marissa Chavez will help offset the losses.
Throw in the return of starting pitchers Arissa Paulson and Autumn Moffat along with the return of injured players Bridget Fleener and Reggie Kanagawa and the prospects for 2020 look that much better.
"We expect the return of both those injured players to really help us, and we have a good amount of talent returning that is hungry to reach new heights," Eakin said.
Eakin understands how tough the competition in the NCAA Tournament is, and has taken measures to match up with that competition in what he hopes will be a 15th straight NCAA tourney berth.
“We play a tough schedule, so I don’t think it’s increasing the competition level, but it’s being more consistent,” Eakin said. “We have to find a way to be more consistent against those top teams around the country, and that’s done a multitude of ways.”
Foremost in Eakin's mind is bringing about more consistency with his team's overall effort and play.
“First is just talent and bringing that talent to the field every day, and also with the team just fighting and refusing to lose,” Eakin said. “It’s having that attitude of fighting together. It’s all those cliches — there’s a million of them — but they’re all true.”
The Cougars' season will begin in late February 2020 and run through May, and if things go according to plan, could run through early June.