(Photo by Kimberlie Haner)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – As McKenna Bull pushed her scoreless innings pitched streak to 51, No. 20 BYU defeated Santa Clara in a doubleheader (5-0, 3-1) to clinch the West Coast Conference title, the Cougars’ fourth WCC championship in a row.
"This team has been special all year," BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. "The two wins today showed the same resiliancy and fight we've had all year. Winning the conference is a great accomplishment, and we look to build on that."
BYU (39-10, 11-0 WCC) earned sole possession of the WCC title after defeating Santa Clara (12-36, 4-10 WCC) in the second game of the doubleheader. This is the ninth conference championship in a row for the Cougars, spanning four conferences.
Bull pitched BYU to a complete game win in the first game and came in relief in the second game to pick up the win. She threw seven strikeouts on the night and has now extended her streak without giving up a run to 51 innings. Her season record is now 27-4.
At the plate, Caitlyn Larsen Alldredge led the team, going 4 for 7 on the day. Lauren Bell had two RBI, the most of the day for the Cougars.
BYU defeated Santa Clara 5-0 in the first game, with Bull increasing her streak without allowing a run to 49.2 innings while tossing six strikeouts in the win. Bull and the Cougar defense stifled the Broncos, never allowing more than four batters in a frame all game.
The second half of the lineup got it done in the first game. Briielle Breland led the offense, going 2 for 3 with two RBI and two runs. Alldredge also had an impressive game, hitting a perfect 3 for 3 with two runs. This is her fourth game this year batting 1.000. Brooke Vander Heide also chipped in two hits and an RBI.
After two scoreless innings, the Cougars struck first in the top of the third. With Breland and Jensen on third and second, respectively, Bell hit a sacrifice fly to center field, allowing Breland time to tag up and run home to put BYU up 1-0.
The top of the fourth saw one more run cross home plate for the Cougars. With Alldredge on third, Alexa Strid hit a grounder to shortstop, reaching on an error and sending Alldredge home.
The Broncos threatened to score in the bottom of the fourth after an error and a sacrifice bunt pushed the runner to third. However, Bull struck out two in a row to keep the shutout going. BYU led 2-0 after four innings.
In the top of the sixth, the Cougars added three more to their total. With runners on first and second, Breland drilled a triple to right center, notching two RBI. In the next at bat, Vander Heide hit a blooper over first base to bring home Breland, pushing the lead to 5-0.
Olivia Sanchez came in to start the seventh inning, making the Broncos go three up, three down to seal the 5-0 win.
BYU at Santa Clara Game 1 Box Score
The Cougar offense struggled in the back end of the doubleheader, but they were still able to grind out the 3-1 win. They went three up, three down in four of the frames. Arissa Paulson pitched 5.2 innings, throwing eight strikeouts and giving up just one run. Bull came in for relief in the bottom of the sixth, earning the win and pushing her record to 27-4.
Santa Clara came out strong in the second game. A lead-off single got the home team started. That runner would later score off of a single to right field as the Broncos took the early 1-0 lead over BYU.
The Cougars were held scoreless for the first four innings. A pair of singles from Libby Sugg and Alldredge got runners on in the top of the second, but the offense was unable to capitalize.
In the top of the fifth, BYU tied the game 1-1. After Jensen got walked to load up the bases, Bell hit a single to the shortstop, bringing in the first Cougar run. However, the three remaining baserunners were left stranded at the end of the frame.
BYU loaded up the bases again in the top of the seventh without any hits. When Lexi Tarrow came up to bat, she earned four balls to push Breland, the game-winning run, over home plate. Sugg also drew a walk in the next at bat for a second run, making it 3-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Bull struck out the final batter in the bottom of the seventh for the 3-1 win, clinching the WCC title.
BYU at Santa Clara Game 2 Box Score
The series against the Broncos wraps up on Saturday with a game at 12 p.m. PDT. Live stats will be available on the BYU softball schedule page.