Boise State softball makes home debut today

BSU is hosting a three-day invitational at Dona Larsen Park.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comMarch 7, 2014 

— Senior MacKenzie Whyte stole 14 bases in her first three seasons. She has a team-high 13 steals in 17 games this season.

Whyte’s newfound speed is part of a larger trend on a Boise State team that is on pace to shatter school and Mountain West records for a single season.

The Broncos make their 2014 home debut Friday against Indiana (4 p.m., Dona Larsen Park) as they begin the SpringHill Suites Invitational I. The team is home for 14 straight games, including the Mountain West opener March 21 against Fresno State.

“We wanted to work on our speed, and we were extremely pleasantly surprised with our results,” coach Erin Thorpe said. “We decided we needed to change our offensive strategy slightly to incorporate some of that newly found speed.”

The Broncos (7-10) are 41-for-50 on stolen-base attempts. They stole 46 bases last season. The school record is 77 (2010), and the Mountain West record is 87.

With 2.4 steals per game, Boise State is on pace for 127.

“We knew when we tested in the fall before we went home for Christmas break that we all had improved greatly on our speed,” senior Tara Glover said. “Coach was really excited. That was one thing she said in a meeting — we had the speed, and we’re going to really use it.”

That’s nothing new for Glover, who is 57-for-62 in three seasons. She has arrived safely on 24 straight attempts and 41 of her last 42.

Add in her freshman season at Utah, and Glover has 73 stolen bases, the third-most in Mountain West history. The record is 103; the second-most is 91.

“She’s fast. Period,” Whyte said. “Tara’s speed is eye-opening.”

Glover’s top time in the 20-yard dash — the same distance as she runs between the bases — is 2.63 seconds. If she gets a good jump when the ball exits the pitcher’s hand, there’s little the defense can do to stop her.

“Last year, the only caught stealing I got was sliding past the bag,” she said. “… I don’t like to stay on the base paths very long.”

Thorpe, who in most cases tells the runner when to steal, likes what the running is doing to opponents.

“It gives us so much more flexibility for offensive creativity,” she said. “It really allows us to try to throw the defense off its game and kind of catch them when they’re least expecting it or get them frazzled.”

Whyte, who is 13-for-14, fits the “not expecting it” mold.

She is about the sixth- or seventh-fastest player on the team, Thorpe said. Her 20-yard time dropped this year from 3.0 to 2.91 — still much slower than Glover’s.

“But she’s one of our best base stealers because of her exit off the bag and delivery into the bag,” Thorpe said. “She’s able to cut down on her 20 time by quite a bit when she’s actually stealing.”

Said Whyte: “If you have a weak slide, you’re usually not going to make it.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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