It’s time we talked softball.
No, softball isn’t one of Utah’s major sports. As with every Division I school, football and basketball bring in the most money, draw the biggest crowds and dominate both headlines and dinnertime discussion. People know Kent Myers and Dallin Leavitt’s names. Students who don’t necessarily attend every basketball game still recognize Koby McEwen and Jalen Moore around campus — admittedly, the fro is pretty hard to miss. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But even with spring football rolling in fast and the NCAA March Madness tournament upon us, we can’t ignore what Aggie softball is doing out on that field to the south of campus — their success demands it.
It’s time we get to know Victoria Saucedo, who along with a supporting cast of stars has rocketed the Aggies to a 16-5 record in the single greatest start to a season Utah State has ever seen.
Saucedo’s already heavily-decorated college career seems destined for one glorious final chapter spent leading Utah State’s supercharged offense. The senior second baseman earned Mountain West Freshman of the Year and landed herself a spot on the all-conference first team back in 2014, then rebounded from an injury-riddled sophomore season to tie Utah State’s single-season home run record (12) and earning second-team all-conference honors in 2016. This year, the California native is batting a ridiculous .426 and tied for first in the conference with seven home runs through 21 games.
Saucedo is joined in the conference’s top ten batting percentages by junior Jazmin Clarke (.414), who evidently decided after stealing a record 25 bases last year to put that record to shame — Clarke is already 16-of-19 on stolen bases in 2017 with 29 conference games still to play.
The list goes on. Senior Sarina Jaramillo is consistent as ever, one of just a pair of Aggies to start every game last season (Saucedo is the other) and still a constant annoyance to visiting pitchers batting .371 this year. Newcomer Riley Plogger has three triples in her first 21 games of collegiate action, tied for no. 20 in the nation — and by the way, she’s just half a step behind Jaramillo at the plate, hitting .364.
As a group the Aggies have demolished opponents in the month of March, scoring in double-digits three times and ending games by mercy rule twice over the weekend (13-4 over Wagner in five innings, 12-1 over SUU in six).
And that’s just the offense. April Brown and Kellie White are two of the five toughest pitchers to score a run on in the Mountain West, with 1.70 and 1.91 ERAs, respectively.
This team has rattled off 11 wins in 13 games for a 20-game start unparalleled by any team in Utah State’s program history — beating out Utah State’s 1986 squad’s 15-5 mark by one game. For fear of that stat falling by the wayside without proper context, Utah State softball has appeared in the Women’s College World Series four times (1978, 1980, 1981 and 1984) winning the AIAW Division I softball national championship in 1980 and 1981, so USU isn’t exactly unused to success.
The season now moves past weekend tournaments and into what should be a thrilling race for a Mountain West title. The Aggies still have to contend with high-caliber teams from Boise, Fresno and San Diego, but through the front end of the year they’ve proven one thing — this is a team worth talking about.