Weber State is back on top.
Behind a relentless offensive attack and dominating pitching performance by Addie Jensen, the Wildcats softball team overwhelmed the University of Northern Colorado 8–0 to win the Big Sky Conference tournament on Saturday in Sacramento, California.
The victory ensures that Weber State will advance to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five years, and first time since 2016. After a 7–17 start to the season, the ‘Cats won 19 of their final 21 games, including a 17–2 mark against conference play.
“I think we just figured out how to win,” said freshman second baseman Faith Hoe, who was named tournament MVP. “We didn’t have a lot of confidence at the start of the year. But we got on a roll at the start of conference play and never really let up.”
Wildcats head coach Mary Kay Amicone attributed her team’s turnaround to mental toughness.
“When adversity hits you have to dig in and see what you’re all about,” Amicone said. “As a team we needed to play better in all facets. And we did.”
Facing Bears senior pitcher Valerie Vidal for the second time in three days, WSU came out with their bats on fire and put the game away in the first inning.
Faith Hoe, senior infielder Sadie Blacker, freshman catcher Lauren Hoe and sophomore left fielder Courtney Petska all delivered run-scoring hits in the first frame. Another tally crossed the plate on an error and the Wildcats led 6–0 before Jensen threw her first pitch.
“We had a lot of confidence against Vidal,” Faith Hoe said. “We squared her up good on Thursday. We just waited for the right pitchers in our zone.”
Amicone said a quick start to the game was crucial.
“(Vidal) is a warrior,” Amicone said. “She carried that team. We knew we needed to score early.”
The offensive outburst was more than enough for the ‘Cats senior right-hander, who limited Northern Colorado to two hits and allowed just one baserunner to reach scoring position.
At the plate, the Wildcats continued to add on as Faith Hoe doubled home junior first baseman Ashlyn Visser in the second inning. In the fourth, Blacker singled to score Faith Hoe and give Weber State an eight-run lead which necessitated the mercy rule to take effect after five innings.
“We have great chemistry,” Amicone said. “Everyone got better at their roles. You need to have depth and know what your situation is. They played very hard for each other.”
Jensen finished it off in the bottom of the fifth, striking out the final two hitters. Her game-ending strikeout of Maddee Blood-Smyth sparked an ecstatic celebration in front of the pitcher’s circle at Shea Stadium.
“Addie was dialed in today,” Faith Hoe said. “We were so happy embracing each other after the final out. It was the neatest feeling, one I will never forget. We will hold onto it for a long time.”
Faith Hoe was 6 for 11 at the plate in three tournament games, doubling twice, driving in three runs and scoring four times. Sophomore third baseman Chloe Camarero also continued to be on a tear, going 5 for 13 while hitting two home runs and knocking in five.
The Wildcats will now turn their attention to the NCAA selection show, where the field of 64 will be announced Sunday evening. In their previous two regional appearances, Weber State played in Louisiana in 2015 before traveling to Washington in 2016.
“Wherever we end up going, we are going to battle and show what we are made of,” Amicone said.