BYU’s softball team will be a huge underdog at the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional on Thursday when the NCAA tournament begins on the campus of Oklahoma State University, so the Cougars are understandably nervous and tense.
Good thing catcher Libby Sugg, a senior from Franklin, Tenn., is around for a little comic relief.
“I don’t know why that is, exactly,” Sugg said with her slight southern accent. “People just look at me and laugh. Maybe it is the way I talk. I am totally OK with that, if it keeps people laughing.”
West Coast Conference champion BYU (29-24) is making its 15th-consecutive NCAA regional appearance hoping to make it to a Super Regional for the first time since 2010. It has never advanced to the Women’s College World Series.
Is this the year? It is highly unlikely, considering the Cougars open against No. 13 Oklahoma State (39-14) at 6:30 p.m. MDT on its home field. Tulsa (35-18) and Arkansas (38-18) are also in the regional.
Oklahoma State won 39 games despite having one of the country’s most difficult schedules. It went 20-9 against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes in at least one of the national polls. It has eight wins over top-15 opponents. The Cowgirls drew a record 1,374 fans at Cowgirl Stadium for their final home game of the season, against rival Oklahoma. They went 15-3 at home this season.
“I know everyone is nervous,” Sugg said Tuesday night after the Cougars arrived in Stillwater. “We don’t like to show it. But if you have someone to keep you loose and light-hearted, it definitely makes things easier.”
Sugg has been that someone since she arrived in Provo in 2016, having somewhat reluctantly turned down offers from Southeastern Conference schools to attend her church’s flagship school. She’s one of five seniors who will be moving on, joining infielders Ashley Godfrey, Allie Hancock and Olivia Sanchez and outfielder Lexi Tarrow, who on Tuesday was named WCC Player of the Year.
“Libby keeps everybody laughing,” said star left fielder Rylee Jensen.
Coach Gordon Eakin said Sugg understands how to work with BYU’s young pitching staff — led by WCC pitcher of the year Arissa Paulson, who will get the start Thursday — and doesn’t get overwhelmed by big-name teams the Cougars face in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
“I would say I have no regrets about coming to BYU,” said Sugg, whose parents — Chuck and Denise — will make the nine-hour drive from Tennessee to see her play. “I am happy that I decided to come here and have my college experience at BYU, both softball and academically, and I am just super satisfied with how these four years have turned out.”
Sugg married Gareth Ah Chong last June and said married life has “definitely been an adjustment,” but is well worth it.
She will leave as one of the most prolific hitters in program history.
Sugg is tied for fourth with Jodi Norton (2004-07) in BYU career home runs with 49. She’s No. 2 in career RBIs with 209 and is No. 9 in school history in batting average at .354.
She’s No. 9 in career hits (221), No. 2 in career doubles (47) and No. 3 in career slugging percentage (.667).
“I came out here just wanting to have fun and get a little playing time, and yeah, I think I did everything I wanted to do while I was here,” she said.
And she made a lot of people laugh along the way.
NCAA SOFTBALL REGIONAL
At Cowgirl Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
Thursday’s first-round games
Arkansas (38-18) vs. Tulsa (35-18), 4 p.m. MDT
BYU (29-24) vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (39-14), 6:30 p.m. MDT