The Idaho State softball team was not always as good as it is today. Four seasons ago, the Bengals were picked to finish last in the Big Sky, the same year former head coach Julie Wright brought in arguably the best freshmen class this school has ever seen.
Katlyn Marquez, Michaela Taylor, Bailey Foster and Maddy Hickman all came in their freshmen seasons and made an immediate impact on the team, propelling them to the first of three consecutive regular season conference championships.
Marquez and Taylor have been the driving force, setting the table for the team to score an abundance of runs. Taylor’s aggressive approach has given her honorable mentions for All-Conference in two different seasons, hitting a respectable .327 and .302 in conference play those seasons.
“Our first practice was super exciting,” Marquez said. “We came out and shocked some people.”
Marquez has solidified herself as one of the better outfielders in the conference. Her combination of speed and scrappy plays has given her First-Team All-Conference honors in her freshmen season.
The cleanup hitter, Hickman, has been taking care of business at the plate once Taylor and Marquez find their way on base. Hickman was awarded Big Sky Freshmen of the Year in her first season, and has not looked back, hitting five bombs and 19 RBIs in conference play last season.
Pitcher Sophie Slagle was later added to the already well established team, transferring to ISU from UC Riverside. Slagle stepped in, and immediately gave the Bengals another piece to an already perfect puzzle.
Throw in a change of pace Foster into the mix, who is able to confuse hitters because she is left handed and throws the ball with incredible spin, the Bengals have been the team to beat the last four seasons.
Slagle was the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year last season, and received second-team All-Conference honors, starting 29 games and winning 18 of them.
Every senior on the team is from the state of California, except for Taylor.
Taylor, a four year starter at second base, is from Kansas.
“I love California, I have always wanted to go there,” Taylor said. “They’re the same, there’s nothing different. I knew I would meet new people from different places.
“We are still normal too,” Marquez added, laughing.
Three of the four seniors from California not only come from the same state, but also the same travel team. Hickman, Marquez and Foster all knew each other before they even moved to Idaho.
The three did not plan on attending Idaho State together, it just happened.
“It was kind of like ‘oh, you’re looking at Idaho State? Me too. Oh, you’re coming on a visit? Me too. Oh, you committed? Me too.’” Marquez said.
Foster described the visits as an experience, and explained none of them were seriously considering committing, until they got onto campus and saw what ISU and Pocatello had to offer.
“Once we got here, we really fell in love with what the school had to offer us,” Hickman said. “We just fell in love with the environment and the atmosphere and we didn’t really realize it until after we got here.”
Wright sold her players on a vision, a vision of a winning team, a vision that they have successfully been able to realize.
“You have a chance to be something special, something bigger then yourself,” Marquez and Taylor said in a tag team effort to answer the question.
The past four years have featured a lot of ups and a lot of downs.
“When we have the downs, we came back stronger,” Marquez said. “Winning that first championship was a highlight for us and getting our rings.”
Success never comes free; the team faced consequences for breaking team rules by their former coach.
“Julie was really hard on us,” Taylor said. “We had a lot of five a.m. workouts and stuff. But it was worth it.”
“The discipline definitely made us who we are,” Foster added. “It made us personally responsible for all of our actions.”
Despite the downs the seniors have endured throughout their careers, they have been able to win championships and leave a legacy, a legacy that current and future players will look to continue.
“We have a lot of freshmen coming in,” Slagle said. “So it will be a young team. Hopefully from the experience of playing with us, playing with the championship teams, they can pick up from that and know what is expected.”
“I think this group is more of a showing,” Marquez said. “We lead by example.”
“Show them that you have to be confident to be successful,” Taylor added.
The Bengals have one home series left, a three game series against Northern Colorado, with the final home game Saturday, May 7.
“I feel like I am not going to know it until it happens,” Marquez said.
All the seniors agree that the emotions and the fact that they will never play together in a Bengal uniform will not hit them until after they are done playing.
Regardless of the emotions, this senior class has shaped the future of the ISU softball program, something they can all carry with them for the rest of their lives.