It’s no secret that underclassmen dominate BYU softball, with 14 of the team’s 18 players currently in their first two years of playing eligibility at BYU. Leading the pack of developing stars is the sophomore duo of pitcher McKenna Bull and catcher Sydney Broderick.
The West Coast Conference has awarded Bull “Pitcher of the Week” and Broderick “Player of the Week.” This achievement would normally be impressive on its own, but they have each received the awards three weeks in a row. Bull reigned from Feb. 16 to March 8, while Broderick has held the title since March 23.
“They’re individual awards, but they’re team-generated,” head coach Gordon Eakin said. “Sydney, without a great pitcher, doesn’t get Player of the Week three times. McKenna — without a great catcher in Sydney and great offense that scores runs and a great defense that doesn’t make plays — doesn’t get Pitcher of the Week three times in a row.”
Both Bull and Broderick had impressive seasons as freshmen. Bull had a 16-9 win/loss record with a 3.15 ERA in 2014 while splitting pitching duties with senior Tori Almond. Now, Bull’s 2015 record is 22-5, averaging a 2.04 ERA as the Cougars’ starting pitcher in 26 of 34 games.
“Between last year and now, she turned it around,” pitching coach Pete Meredith said. “She’ll attribute that to hard work and the understanding of how to pitch. Being a pitcher is one thing, but learning to be a pitcher is another.”
Broderick also impressed as a freshman, finishing 2014 with a team-high .360 average to go along with six home runs as an everyday starter. Now two-thirds of the way into this season, Broderick has already matched her number of homers from last year while improving her batting average to .402.
The Cougars’ most recent success can be attributed to the team chemistry between Broderick, Bull and the rest of the Cougar roster. The team spends almost all of its time together, whether on the diamond, watching movies, hiking, bowling, skating and singing, or just messing with the coach.
“Pranking Coach Eakin is one of our favorite pastimes,” Bull said.
Most recently the team pranked Eakin for April Fool’s Day by wrapping everything in his office, making fake snow out of shredded paper and setting up a Christmas tree, complete with ornaments featuring team members’ selfies. On another occasion, outfielder Gordy Bravo hid in the upper storage area of the bus with a stick and periodically poked the coach with it throughout the ride, who had no idea where it was coming from.
Eakin is a good sport about the pranks and believes the athletes’ strong bonds help them play better together.
“They do have a lot of fun. That’s their personality, and I think allowing them some of that latitude helps them win,” Eakin said.
Eakin also believes that team chemistry is critical; the players must respect, encourage and take care of each other, and it’s a bonus if they enjoy hanging out outside of softball.
“A lot of us joke around and call (Bull) a diva, because she’s the center of attention as the pitcher,” Broderick said. “But it makes her a better pitcher. She’s really diligent, and if she ever has a bad game, she’ll always come back to practice more focused on hitting her spins and hitting her spots.”
Bull’s hometown is Ogden, while Broderick grew up in Ashburn, Virginia, but they eventually found similar paths to BYU. Both attended BYU’s softball camp and signed with the Cougars after their sophomore year of high school. They excelled as freshmen and share the goal of reaching the NCAA World Series.
But best of all, Bull and Broderick are both still sophomores, with two more years left to help elevate BYU softball.