The Weber State Wildcat’s softball team’s opening day was Feb. 12, in Phoenix, Arizona at the Grand Canyon Kickoff Tournament.
Nearly a full calendar year has passed since the reigning Big Sky Champions took the diamond in an actual game with the team last playing a competitive inning against the Pacific Tigers in Reno, Nevada on March 8, 2020.
“Just being able to step foot on that field and be out there with my teammates, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most and just that whole atmosphere,” Chloe Camarero, Wildcats 2019 First Team All-Conference third baseman, said.
The Wildcats were voted the No. 1 team in the 2021 Big Sky Preseason Poll with 35 votes; Sacramento State came in second with 32.
Weber State’s been voted the preseason No.1 team in the Big Sky Conference three of the last five years.
“We’re very honored and thrilled to be picked number one. Obviously we’ll have a target on our back,” Faith Hoe, Wildcats second baseman and 2019 Big Sky Co-Freshman of the year, said. “But we’re going to stay humble and hungry, and that’s kind of our team’s motto.”
Weber State’s taken home the Big Sky regular-season title or a share of it every year since 2016. The Wildcats also won the Big Sky Tournament in 2019 and became the first Weber State and Big Sky team to win a game at the NCAA Regional Tournament.
The team hopes to continue its high level of success and is looking forward to facing new competition.
“For all of us, this has been the longest we’ve gone without playing softball, so we are so pumped and so excited for all of us to be in one dugout together and to not face our own teammates in practice. Our pitchers are amazing, and they make us feel silly a lot [in practice],” Hoe said.
The Wildcats’ first tournament in the 2021 season features high-caliber and familiar competition. The team will face the University of Oregon, Grand Canyon University and the University of Montana in Phoenix, Arizona.
Oregon’s ranked No. 10 in the D1 Softball Preseason Top 25 and was selected the No. 5 team in the Pac-12 Preseason Poll.
“I think we’re going to compete flat-out,” Ashlyn Visser, Wildcats’ first baseman, said. “We’re coming out and playing hard because we have a lot of good competition coming our way in this tournament.”
The Wildcats’ opening tournaments have proved tough for the team in the past, but the opening non-conference tournaments have been against top-tier teams. Last year at the time the season was canceled, Weber State held a 10–14 record, but none of those games were Big Sky competitions.
“The only way we can get better is if we face the best, so this is definitely good for us to push ourselves and get good softball out of it all around,” Camarero said.
Despite the obstacles the pandemic has made for the Wildcats, the team has been able to keep practicing and scrimmaging against each other.
“Thankfully for us, we were pretty much able to to keep a lot of things in practice the same. The only difference was we made sure to mask up and keep our distance, but other than that, we were able to practice as a team,” Camarero said.
Following the team’s season opening tournament in Phoenix, the Wildcats will travel to Las Vegas to play in the UNLV Tournament from Feb. 19 to 21.
The Wildcats will then play in two Dixie State Tournaments in St. George. The first running from Feb. 26 to 28 and the second from March 12 to 14.
“Our goal is to win, but the season is really, really long, and so we want to get better every game and every time we step on the field,” Hoe said.
Weber State then returns home to Ogden to play the team’s home opener against Utah Valley on March 16. The Wildcats will then play three more home games, starting with Utah State on March 23, before beginning Big Sky play with back-to-back games at Wildcat Softball Field against Idaho State.