The BYU softball team will face some excellent pitchers this week at the NCAA Regional in Stillwater, Oklahoma, but it’s unlikely those players will be as good as what they often see in practice.
The Cougars meet No. 13 Oklahoma State in the first round on Thursday, a difficult matchup for sure. But Lexi Tarrow — the West Coast Conference Player of the Year — says the BYU coaches will have them ready.
Cougar associate head coach Pete Meredith is a 12-time American Softball Association All-American and in 2016 was inducted into the ASA/USA National Softball Hall of Fame. He often takes the mound in practice and shows the Cougars why.
“The NCAA can always be a little nerve-wracking,” Tarrow said. “What really helps us prepare is when Coach Meredith throws live batting practice. He’s one of the world’s best softball pitchers. That really helps us during the whole season, constantly seeing a great pitcher.
“He has every pitch. For me, the rise ball is always something that is pretty impossible for me to stay off of. He can show you just about everything. He has pitches that I don’t think other pitchers have. It can only make you better, right?”
The Cougars will face Oklahoma State’s top pitcher, Samantha Show, who is 17-7 this year with a 2.47 ERA. It won’t be the first time Tarrow has seen Show, who is a graduate transfer from Texas A&M. The Cougars and Aggies played in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in 2017. Show pitched six innings and allowed one earned run in a 10-2 Texas A&M win. Tarrow, along with teammates Rylee Jensen and Libby Sugg, have experience batting against Show.
The challenge for BYU’s sophomore pitching tandem of Autumn Moffat and Arissa Paulson is to keep the Cowgirls in the ballpark. Oklahoma State has hit 74 home runs this season — 17 from Show. Oklahoma State is ranked seventh in the country in homers per game at 1.51.
“They are a home run hitting team so it’s kind of an all-or-nothing thing,” Tarrow said. “We are going to have to keep them on their toes and keep the ball in the infield.”
The Cowgirls, who are 15-3 at home this season, are hosting their first NCAA Regional since 1998.
“I think our kids are in a good spot,” OSU coach Kenny Kajewski said. “They understand the focus and the task at hand. We know who is coming here. We know that we’ve struggled against Tulsa a bunch, like a lot of teams have. We know what Arkansas is all about and respect them. BYU, all they do is win their conference. This is what it’s all about.”
The Cougars won their sixth straight West Coast Conference crown and are attempting to make their first NCAA Super Regional since 2010.
“For me, a lot of it comes down to competition,” Tarrow said. “We all play sports because we like to compete and we like to win. Once we get to the postseason, it really shows who can rise up and who can’t. These are the moments you are always working toward. Having an opportunity to bat or be in the field against the top teams in the nation, honestly, nothing beats that.”
The regional is a double-elimination tournament. Tulsa and Arkansas start things off at 4 p.m. MT on Thursday, followed by BYU and Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m. MT.