The BYU softball team is on a seven-game win streak heading into this weekend, where it will travel to Fresno to play Fresno State in its second WAC series.
BYU is currently 21-8 and sitting atop the WAC standings, having swept New Mexico State in a three-game series last weekend. Fresno State is tied with Hawaii for second in the WAC standings, with one loss to Nevada, and is sporting a 22-13 record on the season.
BYU and FSU played in three of the same preseason tournaments and faced similar opponents in those tournaments. Both BYU and FSU beat Saint Joseph’s and Charlotte in the preseason. BYU beat multiple teams that Fresno lost to, including No. 15 Oregon, Purdue, Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge.
Both teams are similar in season statistics as well. The Cougars have scored 175 runs, have a .304 batting average and 25 home runs, while the Bulldogs have scored 147 runs, have a .275 batting average and 27 home runs.
BYU has an all-time record of 2-6 against FSU. The last meeting between the teams was last year as BYU lost the game 7-3. The Cougars fell behind and weren’t able to regain control to beat the Bulldogs.
Senior Delaney Willard said she remembers the game from last year and hopes to come home with a different outcome.
“We lost that game and I’m pretty sure we lost it pretty bad,” Willard said. “I’m just looking forward to the game [this year] because I know that they’re great competition and they’re a good team. They are the kind of team that we have to beat if we want to make it further into the tournament this year so I think it’s going to be a really good challenge for our hitters and for the pitchers.”
Willard is continuing to be a force at the plate this season. She is one of only two players ranked in the top 11 in the nation in batting average, RBIs per game, slugging percentage, on base percentage, home runs per game and home runs. She was also one of five players nationally recently cited to the ESPN Player of the Year watch out.
Willard said she has gotten this far because of her hard work and dedication to the game she loves, not to mention a great team to back her up.
“It’s always good to know when you put a lot of time and effort into something, you get the results you want,” Willard said. ” I know my teammates [will] help me too whenever I need any help.”
Sophomore Tori Almond is also proud to be on a team with such great chemistry and camaraderie. Almond picked up three wins in her last three starts for the Cougars, holding opponents to an .086 batting average and only giving up six hits. Almond knows she will have to pitch her best if she wants to earn another win against FSU.
“I’m going to have to make sure to stay ahead of all the hitters and make sure they’re hitting my pitches,” Almond said. “But I think if we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, that we’re going to have a good weekend.”
Head coach Gordon Eakin said his team is ready for the challenges that lie ahead because they know what’s expected of them.
“Winning is an expectation,” Eakin said. “Not giving in is an expectation. Getting better every day is an expectation. And I think this team is becoming special because it is following the tradition of the program and exercising all of those traits.”
The Cougars’ three-game series can be followed live on game tracker, while Fresno State may also stream the games live. BYU will return to Provo next week to face Southern Utah and Hawaii.