Season preview: SUU softball prepares for first season in the WAC 

After finishing seventh in the 2022 Big Sky Conference regular season standings, Southern Utah University softball switched to the WAC and has been ranked 12th in the preseason polls. The Thunderbirds did not qualify for the Big Sky Conference tournament last season. 

Notable losses

Makall Whetten, 5-5, Outfield, .216 AVG, .722 OPS, 21 Hits, 8 Doubles, 6 RBI, .330 SLG%

Whetten started all 43 games last season for head coach Don Don Williams in her senior year. In her final season, she led the team in both on-plate percentage at .722 and doubles hit with eight. Whetten was a featured outfielder for the Thunderbirds.

Dream Weaver, 5-9, Outfield, .226 AVG, .588 OPS, 21 Hits, 10 Runs, .330 OB%

Weaver started 41 of 43 games last season. Weaver was a reliable contact hitter for Southern Utah and was second in batting average at .226. She finished second on the team in walks with 13 and in on-base percentage at .330. Weaver will be missed, as she was one of the most trusted hitters last season. 

Reilly Williams, 5-5, Catcher/Infield, .167 AVG, .576 OPS, 17 Hits, 2 HR, 14 RBI 

Williams, the head coach’s daughter, started all 43 games in her last year and was the power hitter for the Thunderbirds, finishing second in home runs and leading the team in RBIs with 14. Additionally, she had a good eye at the plate and finished the season tied for first in walks at 15. 

Familiar faces 

Kelleigh Fielder, 5-3, Catcher, 3 At-Bats 

Fielder did not see much playing time last season, only playing one game that she also started. Now a sophomore, Fielder will be a depth piece this season with Josey White and transfer Bella Garica projected to be ahead of her on the opening day roster. 

Sophia Masut, 5-5, Infield, .195 AVG, .485 OPS, 16 Hits, .244 SLG%, .241 OB%

Masut made an immediate impact as a freshman last season. She shined bright at third base in her opening campaign and was a clutch hitter in the bottom of the lineup for the Thunderbirds. Masut will see more time in the starting lineup this year and will look to improve on a successful freshman year. 

Jayne Sepulveda, 5-7, Infielder, .256 AVG, .677 OPS, 33 Hits, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 50 TB, .388 SLG% 

Sepulveda was the MVP of the Thunderbirds last season, leading the team in batting average, hits, home runs, total bases and slugging percentage. Sepulveda will be an instant start for coach Williams and will look to build upon the dominating freshman season that earned her All-Big Sky Honorable Mention.   

Grace Owen, 5-6, Pitcher, 1-3 record,  9.19 ERA, 2.55 WHIP, 61.2 IP, 36 SO 

Owen appeared on the mound for 33 games last season and started three of those games. She finished second in earned run average, walks and both hits per inning pitched and innings pitched. Coach Williams has brought in new additions to the bullpen that will help Owen craft her role as a relief pitcher in the middle innings. 

Madison Sanders, 5-9, First Base/Infield, .103 AVG, .315 OPS 

Sanders appeared in 36 games and started 12 last season for coach Williams. With the departing Reilly Williams being the starter at first base last season, Sanders is projected to take the reins as the opening day first baseman for the 2023 campaign and her senior year. 

Capri Franzen, 5-9, Pitcher, 1-4 record, 12.90 ERA, 3.13 WHIP, 44.2 IP, 36 SO

In her junior year, Franzen was the go-to closer in the pitching rotation with a .208 batting average, 15 hits, three home runs, 12 RBIs and the only grand slam for the Thunderbirds last season. She played 36 games and started 30 as the designated hitter. 

Keimon Winston, 5-8, Pitcher, 1-22 record, 13.04 ERA,  2.69 WHIP, 88.1 IP, 37 SO 

Winston’s first two starts were against the University of Alabama and the University of Arizona, who are top 10 teams. She led the team in strikeouts with 37 and can light up the strike zone. 

Payton Goodrich, 6-0, Pitcher, 0-9 record, 8.69 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, 48.2 IP, 25 SO

Goodrich was the best pitcher in the Thunderbirds’ rotation last season. She appeared in 14 games and started 11. Watch for Goodrich to improve her stats from last season and be a dual threat as a starter and reliever. 

Amyah Boostedt, 5-7, Utility, .152 AVG, .430 OPS, 10 Hits, 2 HR, 11 RBI

In her freshman season, Boostedt was the ultimate flex for the Thunderbirds, playing in both the infield and outfield. She played 32 games and started all but one. Boostedt tied for second in home runs and finished third in RBI’s. Look for her to appear in more games this season in the infield and be relied upon as designated hitter. 

Josey White, 5-6, Catcher/Infield, .143 AVG, .440 OPS, 6 TB 

White had a dominant 2021 campaign. The 2022 campaign, however, was the total opposite — injuries sidelined her, and she only played the first ten games of the season. Look for White to start at catcher this season and rekindle the spark from the 2021 campaign. 

Newcomers to the roster

Teagan Neumann, Outfield 

As an incoming freshman, Neumann will make an immediate impact in the outfield with Whetten and Weaver having graduated last spring. This makes Neumann a candidate to start on opening day. She played all three outfield positions in high school and was named Defensive Player of the Year for her play in the outfield. Additionally, Neumann earned Second Team All-Conference Honors in both her junior and senior seasons of high school. 

Riley Nielson, Pitcher

Nielson is coming out of high school with a legendary career. As a junior, she totaled 123 innings, a 16-1 record, 207 strikeouts and a staggering .967 ERA. Nielson threw 125 innings in her senior year and amassed a record of 20-2. She finished with 199 total strikeouts and a 1.44 ERA. Nielson could make some noise in her first year with the Thunderbirds and be a top pitcher for coach Williams. 

Mikala Huskey, Infielder 

Huskey is an all-around talent in the infield and had an impressive high school career, finishing her senior season with a .611 batting average. Huskey will likely only play in a few games her freshman season due to the majority of the infield returning and transfers being added to the roster. 

Alayah Toscano, Outfield

Toscano earned Defensive Player of the Year Honors her freshman season. During her senior year, she batted .557 and earned All-CIF First Team recognition. She has the hitting power to be a starter in the outfield this season. 

Emily Gonzales, Infielder 

Gonzales is a great contact and power hitter, leading the conference with eight home runs,  a .430 batting average and a slugging percentage of .757. Gonzales could be an option at first and third base for the Thunderbirds this season. 

Miranda Lopez, 5-1, Infielder, .190 AVG, .925 FLD%

Coming to SUU by way of Eastern Kentucky University, Lopez has been a constant threat on the defensive side of the ball, finishing in the top three in putouts and fielding percentage for EKU. Additionally, Lopez started 110 out of 114 games over the past three seasons. With Lopez’s experience, durability and consistency, she will likely be a starter for the Thunderbirds on opening day. 

Allie Laub, Outfielder, .356 AVG, .422 OBP, 46 Runs, 24 SB, 5 HR 

Laub joins the Thunderbirds after two seasons at Salt Lake Community College. She is originally from St. George and adds depth to the outfield with her speed and ability to hit the ball. Additionally, Laub collected 85 putouts and a fielding percentage of .947. With the experience she has, she will likely headline the outfield for the Thunderbirds. 

Bella Garcia, Catcher, .419 AVG, .481 OBP, .737 SLG%, 63 RBI, 14 HR

Garcia makes her way to SUU from Central Arizona Community College. She is a classic example of a catcher with great hitting tools, having finished second on the team in slugging percentage and RBIs. Garcia will likely see playing time this season and could start as catcher if she can continue the great hitting. 

Shelby Basso, Pitcher, 0-1 record, 7.00 ERA, 2.44 WHIP, 9.0 IP, 

Basso joins Southern Utah by way of Furman University to add experience to the pitching rotation for the Thunderbirds. She is also a dual-threat player with batting experience; last season she had a .136 batting average, .513 on-plate percentage, one home run and five RBIs. Basso will likely be a starter and relief pitcher this season and perform designated hitting duties. 

SUU softball will start their 2023 season at the UNLV Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their first game will be against Baylor University on Friday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m. MST. The game will be held at Eller Media Stadium. 


Article by: Anthony Colasuono

Photos courtesy of SUU Athletics