It’s been a season unlike any other that BYU softball coach Gordon Eakin has experienced. A couple of factors, outside the control of Eakin and his squad, have been culprits of misfortune for the Cougars, making this year one of the most unique the longtime BYU coach can remember. 

A long winter derailed the Cougars’ original schedule, forcing the school to work hard to ensure it had games to play. 

“We’ve lost six games to weather,” Eakin said. “That is (after) fighting to reschedule three games that we would have lost (to weather) too had we not fought to reschedule them. So the weather has been frustrating. That’s just something we can’t control and something that we need to work through.”

Even more frustrating might be the long list of injuries that BYU has battled through to salvage its season. 

“This has also been a season where we’ve had more injuries than I’ve ever experienced in my career, to key players,” Eakin said. 

The two obstacles have become the Cougars’ nemeses, at times combining forces to pose great challenges.  

“Just when we get the players back (from injury) and going, we have a weather issue,” Eakin said. “So it’s hard to get them in the flow because you’re not playing games to get them in the flow or you can’t practice outside to get them in the flow.”

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When given the opportunity, BYU has gotten in the flow, putting together another impressive season of 31 wins against 14 losses. However, resiliency has been the name of the game for the Cougars, as they have navigated the turbulent season.  

“We have had to learn to go on and be resilient and push through,” Eakin said. “We have to be resilient and overcome difficulties and injuries like every other team does. But the other thing is, it’s opened the door for our freshmen to step up and they really have. I’m really pleased with the freshmen on our team and what they’ve done for our program this year.”

In a year that BYU was already going to rely on its youth, with 17 underclassmen on the roster, the school has depended on less-experienced players even more heavily than it anticipated. 

Though senior first baseman Ava Huntyr has led the Cougars’ offense with a .369 batting average, Ailana Agbayania and Hailey Morrow, a pair of freshmen, have been the next best hitters for the team, batting .329 and .324, respectively. 

The Cougars’ defense has been directed by freshman pitcher Kaysen Korth, who transferred from Weber State following one semester in Ogden. Korth has shouldered the bulk of the duties from the circle, pitching half of the innings that BYU has taken the field. The true freshman’s usage has increased due to senior southpaw Chloe Temples’ battle with injuries throughout the season. 

Behind the plate, the Cougars had to turn to Morrow, a middle infielder and an unlikely candidate, after the team lost four of its catchers over the last year due to health issues. Despite her fears, Morrow began the transition to her new position and caught on quickly. 

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“She is now our starting catcher and has been incredible,” Eakin said of Morrow. “It’s like she’s caught her whole life and she is an advanced catcher after just her first ball she ever caught as a catcher was in January. So that worked out, but there was a trial there.”

BYU’s grueling season has seen the school settle into second place in the West Coast Conference, putting the Cougars in danger of losing their league for the first time since 2008. The school remains one game back of LMU heading into the final weekend of the season. 

Still, Eakin remains focused on winning no matter what happens outside his team’s control. 

“We feel pressure to win every game, every day because that’s our job,” he said. “So is the pressure great to continue the tradition that we’ve started? Absolutely. But if we hadn’t won 13 (conference championships) in a row, I don’t know that the pressure and the desire and the drive would be any different internally because we’re very competitive.”

That competitive drive has shown as Eakin and the Cougars have pieced together successful results during a tumultuous season, one unlike most others. 

BYU’s final series of the year, and the WCC for that matter, will be played this weekend at Saint Mary’s beginning Friday. The Cougars and Gaels will match up two more times the next day, facing off in a doubleheader Saturday afternoon.

BYU Cougars catcher Hailey Morrow, left, laughs with teammate Chlo Temples prior to a game with Boise State in Provo on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Morrow, a true freshman, has come up big for the Cougars after moving from second base to starting catcher. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News