Weber State softball picked with Sac State as 2023 Big Sky favorites; schedule daunting
Six-time defending conference champion Weber State softball is again expected to compete at the top of the Big Sky Conference in 2023.
The Big Sky’s preseason poll released Tuesday, as voted by the league’s coaches, places the Wildcats in that same spot — though they have company.
Weber State was voted tied for first in the poll with Sacramento State. Each garnered 21 total poll points, though WSU had three first-place votes to Sac State’s two.
Portland State was just one point behind, with 20 poll points and one first-place vote, in third place.
Montana, Idaho State and Northern Colorado round out the six-team poll.
Weber State went 38-10 last season before dropping two games at the Washington regional of the NCAA Tournament. WSU was 13-1 and won the Big Sky regular season title by three games, then swept the conference tournament with three run-rule shutouts.
The Wildcats return many starters and major contributors for the 2023 season, including Faith Hoe, Lauren Hoe, Amanda Johnson (née Sink), KC Whiting, Emily Ruhl, McKell McCuiston, Makayla Donahoo, Mia Rushton and Noelle Foster.
Facing an unexpected need for pitchers, Weber State added junior college transfers Cali McCraw and Jayci Finch to join Johnson, Madison Peterson and Brooke Hatfield as returners. Finch is a former standout at Clearfield High School.
Mariah Ramirez, the 2021 Big Sky pitcher of the year, was expected but later unable to return for a fifth season in the circle. Kaysen Korth, the best prep in Utah who signed and attended Weber State in the fall, transferred to BYU at semester break.
The Wildcats face what should easily be considered the most difficult nonconference schedule in program history, and perhaps the most difficult in any sport’s history at WSU. It includes 12 teams who made the 2022 NCAA Tournament — four of which were seeded in the top 16 of the field, six who made it to Super Regionals, four that made the College World Series and two games against defending champion Oklahoma.
Weber State opens the season at a UNLV-hosted tournament Feb. 10-12 to play Baylor, Arkansas and UNLV. A week later at Grand Canyon, WSU plays DePaul, Illinois State, Oregon State, GCU and Arizona State.
After a trip to St. George to play Utah Tech and Saint Louis, WSU goes to an Arizona-hosted tournament to play the hosts, Nebraska, Cal State Northridge and Texas A&M Commerce.
March 9-11 brings a tournament hosted by Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton where WSU will play the hosts, Purdue, San Diego State and Boston.
After the home opener on March 15 against New Mexico, WSU heads to Oklahoma City for the Hall of Fame Classic. There, the Wildcats will play Oklahoma twice, Northwestern twice and Auburn once.
The nonconference schedule ends with a road game at Utah Valley and a road doubleheader at Utah.
Weber State opens Big Sky play March 31 and April 1 with a three-game series against Idaho State. WSU will host Portland State, travel to Sacramento State, host Northern Colorado and travel to Montana in league play.
As defending champions, WSU will host the conference tournament May 10-13 at Wildcat Softball Field.