For 12 days in July of 2021, the UVU softball team was left without a head coach. This came after former head coach Stacy May-Johnson resigned on July 2 to take the Head Coaching position at Fresno State. After a quick turnaround, the Wolverines had found their sixth head coach in UVU’s NCAA Division 1 era in the University of Utah’s Cody Thomson.
Thomson had been on the hill with the Utes since 2005 and was elevated to a full-time assistant coaching position in 2009. Before that, he had an illustrious 14-year playing career in fastpitch softball as a pitcher that included a stint on the USA Men’s National Team.
Thomson is now tasked with turning around a program that hasn’t finished above .500 since the 2013 season.
Around The Western Athletic Conference
In recent years the WAC has been top-heavy with Seattle U and New Mexico State leading the way year in and year out. In 2022 the WAC will nearly double the number of teams in contention in softball from a year ago and add a whole new division to the league.
UVU will be in the West division along with SU, NSMU, Grand Canyon, Cal Baptist and Dixie State.
The Southwest division will include a bevy of WAC newcomers in Tarleton State, Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston, and Stephen F. Austin.
In the WAC preseason poll, the Wolverines were picked to finish last in the west division with just seven votes. SU and SFA were both picked to win their respective divisions with SU pulling in one more first-place vote than the Lumberjacks.
Both the WAC Preseason Player of The Year, Shaylon Govan, and the WAC Preseason Pitcher of The Year, Kassidy Wilbur came out of Nacogdoches, TX, home of SFA. UVU had two players make the Preseason All-WAC team in senior outfielder/infielder Linnah Rebelledo and junior catcher Kalena Shepherd.
Even after losing multiple key contributors to the transfer portal over the summer, the Wolverines still return the main core of 17 players from the 2021 season. UVU has just three seniors on the 2022 roster in Rien Milliken, Madison Carr and Rebelledo who were featured pieces of the roster last season.
Other returning players that UVU can expect to see production from this season include junior pitcher Brooke Carter, who pitched the programs first perfect game in the Division 1 era for the Wolverines in the 2020 season, as well as a seven strike-out complete game in an 8-1 win over BYU in 2021.
Sophomore catcher, Jaeden Barajas is another returning player whose hitting has already contributed to a UVU win in the 2022 season against Pacific last Saturday. Barajas hit a solo home run to get the Wolverines on the board early in the contest. As a freshman last season, Barajas delivered a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs on the road against Boise State. When the Wolverines need a hit in a tight situation, they can look to Barajas to get the job done.
As the transfer portal has taken key players from the Wolverines, it has also given key players to them. Highlighting this year’s transfers is the aforementioned 2022 Preseason All-WAC first-team selection Kalena Shepherd, who came to UVU after setting program records at Southern Utah with a .433 batting average and .788 slugging percentage in 2021. Shepherd was named the 2019 Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a third-team All-American.
Another important offseason addition for the Wolverines is fifth-year senior first-basemen Mikaela Thomson, who is the daughter of coach Thomson and a cousin to teammate Madison Carr, making the 2022 season truly a family affair. Thomson spent three seasons at Dixie State and was named second-team All-WAC in 2021 after batting .331 with a team-high 12 home runs and .646 slugging percentage.
Thomson has already been a huge factor in 2022 as she delivered a walk-off single that capped a two-run seventh inning and sent UVU to a 3-2 win over Pacific at the Lynn Russell Miller Classic at UC Riverside on Sunday giving her dad his first career win as the head coach at UVU.
Winning Ain’t Easy
While there is not a lot to lean on coming off a 24-28 season in 2021, where the Wolverines were 9-15 on the road, UVU hopes that some of the momentum they gained late in the season will carry over to 2022.
The Wolverines knocked off top-seeded NMSU in the first round of the WAC tournament after sweeping Tarleton for four straight wins. UVU would later lose to Seattle 5-1 and receive their second tournament loss when Carr, who was the game-tying run, was thrown out at the plate against NMSU ending their season.
UVU began their 2022 campaign last weekend by going 2-3 at the Lynn Russell Miller Classic in Riverside, Cal. The team picked up two wins over Pacific while losing to Portland State and UC Riverside. They will head to Las Vegas to take part in the UNLV Desert Classic where they will play in-state rival Weber State as well as old WAC foe UMKC before finishing off the multi-team event by playing host UNLV.
The Wolverines will play a total of four preseason tournaments as they prepare for a slate of 35 games headlined by teams such as BYU, Utah, and Wisconsin as well as WAC games vs NMSU, GCU, Seattle, CBU and the Old Hammer Rivalry featuring rival Dixie State. UVU will only play teams from the WAC’s West division due to conference scheduling and will only see teams from the Southwest division once the conference tournament begins on May 11 in Huntsville, TX.
Brice Larson is currently a Junior at UVU majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism and media studies. He enjoys everything about sports and one day hopes to become a college football analyst and play by play commentator.