On March 20, the Weber State University softball team was 7 and 17 going into conference play. Then, the Wildcats went 14 and 2 in conference, won the Big Sky tournament and became the first WSU softball team to win a game at the NCAA Division 1 Softball tournament.
“We were a really young team and we need to be patient,” outfielder Takesha Saltern said. “Once we hit conference play, we found ourselves and showed it by playing Wildcat Softball.”
After a tough start, the Wildcats 14 and 2 record ended up tying for the best record in Big Sky Conference play.
“We had a few injuries to start the season,” senior pitcher Addie Jensen said. “Two of the four pitchers were hurt, including myself. Our offense also struggled to find its identity.”
The ’Cats earned the regular season champions and went into the Big Sky Tournament in Sacramento, CA, as the number one seed.
Weber State drew Portland State for game one and went into extra innings after a controversial call. Sophomore infielder Chloe Camarero walked off with a shot down the left side of the field, which sent the Wildcats into the semifinals.
“When we played that 10-inning game, it set us up for success,” Jensen said. “There was a controversial call, but we came together and never looked back during the tournament.”
WSU took the next two games from Northern Colorado in decisive fashion and guaranteed themselves a spot in the NCAA Division 1 Softball Tournament.
“We came together against PSU,” Saltern said. “Even with the call, it set us up for success in the Big Sky Tournament.”
Weber State drew the Los Angeles Regional with the Cal State Fullerton Titans, Missouri Tigers and the host UCLA Bruins.
On May 17, the Wildcats took on the second-seeded Bruins, and Jensen got the call, going toe-to-toe with the best pitcher in the NCAA Rachel Garcia.
“It meant a lot playing UCLA,” Jensen said. “At the beginning, I was starstruck playing girls I’ve watched on the World Series and then realized we compete on the same level.”
Jensen went four innings and allowed just two runs against the powerhouse UCLA Bruins, who are a favorite to win. WSU dropped the game 6–0 and faced an elimination game against Fullerton the next evening.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience playing UCLA,” Saltern said. “Coming from a small school we took it all in and played.”
The ’Cats jumped out to an early lead over the Titans and fought for a 7–3 win, WSU’s first win in the NCAA tournament.
“We had to be focused the whole game,” Saltern said. “We got so excited when we got to the second out because history was so close but we still needed to get the final out.”
The Wildcats took the field 30 minutes later and fell to the University of Missouri, bringing the 2019 season to an end.
“We got a win, and we showed we can compete,” Jensen said. “For the seniors it was special, first win for WSU and we left a legacy. No other senior class can say that.”
The Wildcats will enter the offseason with high hopes and many of the returning players including all conference Ashlyn Visser, Camarero and Saltern.
“We are going to do our best to play softball and keep the team dynamics together,” Saltern said.