BYU freshman softball player Libby Sugg is proving she is a force to be reckoned with. She’s hitting .346 with 14 home runs and 40 runs batted in on the season.
“People have an expectation about freshmen that isn’t as high as if you’d played (college) a few years,” Sugg said. “It just makes me feel good that I’m doing something to change that.”
Sugg started playing baseball as a child and planned on playing the sport long-term until her hitting coach mentioned it was time for her to make the switch to softball.
“I didn’t start playing softball until I was 9,” she said. “My hitting coach said we needed to start the transition (from baseball to softball) and I was like ‘Coach, what are you talking about? I’m gonna play in the MLB.'”
Not wanting to give up her favorite sport, Sugg picked up softball in addition to continuing with baseball. Her father, Chuck Sugg, said continuing to practice both sports was what rounded out her softball game.
“She had her heart set on competitive baseball, which she played until she was 14, but softball starting at age 9,” he said. “The smaller balls, the drills, playing both of them helped her.”
With Chuck playing the role of both father and coach, he recognized early on Sugg thrived with high level competition.
“My brothers are eight and seven years older than me and they’d challenge me,” Sugg said. “They’d say, ‘You can’t hit as many home runs out as I can,’ and I’d say ‘Bring it on!'”
Chuck said he and his wife Denise intentionally put Sugg in situations where she’d be stretched as a player.
“Libby is a very competitive individual,” Chuck said. “Whenever we had the opportunity to work with or play against older people, we did and she’d work hard to play at their level.”
Sugg started taking catching lessons from Doe Denmon, a Connecticut Sports Hall of Famer who played for the Raybestos Brakettes, a women’s amateur softball team.
“Denmon put her in positions that wouldn’t let (Libby) think age was a factor,” Chuck said. “She’d catch for girls from the University of Tennessee.”
Whether it be staying after her own lessons to catch for older players or hitting in the garage with her brothers, Sugg’s extra-mile mindset began to pay off when she hit her first home run at age 11.
G.E. Haskins, father of Sugg’s former teammate and University of Tennessee commit Alexys Haskins, started offering Sugg a crisp $100 bill each time she hit a home run.
“Of course we didn’t ask him do that, but it sure motivated her,” Chuck said. “By the end of the season, he stopped since she was hitting them so often.”
Sugg went on to win two ASA/USA National Championships and be named to the 2014 Tennessee Softball Coaches Association All-State First Team and the Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State Team in 2013 and 2014.
Sugg began to attract the attention of recruiters while hitting an impressive 37 home runs, 137 RBI and having a .705 on-base percentage.
“Being from Tennessee, it’s the goal to play in the SEC; you want to play at the biggest competition level you can,” she said.
The University of Tennessee–Knoxville was a front-runner, but Sugg ultimately decided to become a Cougar and her dad said she’s had “no regrets.”
“I saw myself playing here and being successful,” Sugg said. “I also saw (myself) playing with a team that I knew could compete with everyone else in the nation.”
Sugg’s first home run of the season was during BYU’s game against the University of Tennessee in February of this year.
“She’s been a star for us this year,” said BYU head coach Gordon Eakin. “They try to pitch around her and she continues to take the one mistake they make and turn it into something positive. I think there’s a lot more to come.”