Bull's pitching leads defensive effort in 3-2 win over Broncos

Freshman McKenna Bull led the Cougar defensive effort with seven strikeouts. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – A strong defensive effort led by the pitching of McKenna Bull and Tori Almond paved the way for the 3-2 BYU win against Santa Clara in West Coast Conference action, Friday at Gail Miller Field.
 
"It was a tight game," BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. "It was a hard-fought conference game and fortunately we were able to execute early in the game by moving runners and then late in the game by moving runners. I think that was the key to our win."
 
The freshman Bull allowed six hits and while striking out seven in five and a third innings of action for the Cougars (18-20, 3-1 WCC). She is now five strikeouts away from setting a new record among freshman pitchers. The senior Almond came in for the final five outs of the game to record the save.
 
Five players notched doubles while senior Carly Duckworth added a triple for BYU’s six hits. The Broncos (5-24, 1-3 WCC) had eight hits but left five runners on base. Friday's win is only the third this season for the Cougars when being outhit by their opponent.
 
Bull began the game on pace to set the freshman pitcher mark for strikeouts. After giving up a one-out hit in the first inning, she finished off the side with two strikeouts getting one looking and one swinging.
 
BYU’s Sydney Broderick led off in the first with a double over the center fielder’s head. She eventually scored on Bravo’s sacrifice fly to center field, putting the Cougars up 1-0.
 
The BYU defense clamped down on the opponent’s offense in the second inning. With one player on first and no outs, Santa Clara’s Kelly Scribner hit up the middle before it was cut off as shortstop Lauren Bell scooped up the ball, tagged second and delivered the ball in time to Katie Manuma at first to turn the double play. Bull added another strikeout to finish off the side.
 
Freshman Mercedes O’Connor reached base on a single down the left line in the bottom of the second. Duckworth followed with the opposite-field triple into the corner of right field, driving in the RBI for the 2-0 BYU lead. 
 
Following another strikeout by Bull to start the fourth, Santa Clara’s Breezy Bernard reached first on a two-out bloop single to shallow center. She then scored on Scribner’s single through the right side and a Cougar error in right field, cutting the lead to 2-1 in favor of the Cougars. Bull got the team out of the jam with another strikeout.
 
In the top of the sixth, the Broncos’ Stephanie Fisher hit a one-out double to left-center field. The Cougars then made a pitching change to senior righthander Almond. Gordy Bravo made the play to first for the second and third outs. 
 
Bravo then opened up the bottom half of the sixth reaching base on a slap single up the middle. BYU brought in Lacey Millett Hofstedt to pinch run. After Ashley Thompson’s sacrifice bunt to advance Hofstedt to second, Manuma railed a double that bounced off the fence in left center field to drive in Hofstedt for the RBI and the 3-1 lead.
 
In the top of the seventh Santa Clara clawed back as Scribner led off, belting the first pitch over the left field fence, cutting the lead to 3-2. The following batter Chiara Biagini singled and the Broncos laid down the sacrifice bunt advancing the tying run to second.
 
With one out and the runner in scoring position, Almond struck out the batter for the second out before the final batter popped out to first base, sealing the BYU conference win.
 
The series continues between the Cougars and Broncos Saturday at noon MDT and 2 p.m.