Senior Carly Duckworth stretched out for an amazing grab to prevent a Saint Mary's double. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah—BYU softball came into this weekend’s series against Saint Mary’s needing to win one game to wrap up the West Coast Conference title. The Cougars didn’t need much time to do just that with a 14-2 win over the Gaels in the weekend’s opening game and then followed up with a 5-1 win in the nightcap.
“It was a great day,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “Our team was well prepared, confident and we came out and just had a great day all the way around.”
This year’s conference championship continues a four-year period of domination by BYU, which became the first team in NCAA history to win four straight conference championships from four separate conferences. It is the team’s sixth consecutive conference championship overall. Cougar seniors have now won championships in the Mountain West Conference (2011), the Western Athletic Conference (2012) and the Pacific Coast Softball Conference (2013) in addition to this year’s WCC title.
“Our whole team has just been playing great,” Eakin said. “I’m tickled for our seniors, but I’m more tickled for our entire team. They all deserve this championship.”
BYU (32-21, 11-2 WCC), which entered this weekend’s matchup against Saint Mary’s (23-26, 8-6 WCC) on a 12-game win streak, got out to a quick start against the Gaels, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first on a Katie Manuma home run to center field. Manuma finished the game with two hits in two plate appearances, four RBIs and two runs scored. The Cougars came right back in the bottom of the second, scoring two more runs after Saint Mary’s catcher Andrea Hazel’s throw to third skipped off the helmet of a diving Mercedes O’Connor and rolled into left field.
The Cougars’ bats came alive even more in a nine-run third inning that saw every player in BYU’s lineup reach base safely. It was the most runs BYU has scored in a single inning this season. The Cougars would go on to score 14 runs before the game was called in the middle of the fifth inning, which tied a season-high for runs scored in a game by BYU.
BYU’s defense was led by senior pitcher Tori Almond, who gave up only two runs through four innings to move to 9-6 on the season. Great diving plays by second baseman McKenzie St. Clair and left fielder O’Connor highlighted a stellar defensive effort by the Cougars, which sealed the game-one victory for BYU.
BYU’s defense continued its great play in game two of Friday’s doubleheader. After starting pitcher McKenna Bull allowed a lead-off base runner, BYU senior first baseman Jenna Goar perfectly fielded a sacrifice bunt, starting a 3-6-4 double play to end Saint Mary’s early scoring threat.
While the Cougar defense started off game two running smoothly, the offense was another story. Saint Mary’s starting pitcher Sarah Lira kept BYU off the board until the bottom of the third inning when Cougar center fielder Carly Duckworth hit a chopper through the left side of the infield with two outs to bring in the first run of the game.
That run was just the beginning for BYU as the Cougars opened things up in the bottom of the fourth. The Cougars four-run inning was highlighted by senior third baseman Ashlee Robinson’s solo home run over the left field wall to increase BYU’s lead to 2-0. Lacey Millett Hofstedt then scored from second base on Sydney Broderick’s single through the right side of the infield. Lauren Bell finished the scoring with the first home run of her career, a two-run shot, to put the Cougars ahead by a score of 5-0.
Saint Mary’s was able to put a run on the board in the top of the sixth inning, but it was too-little, too-late for the Gaels as the Cougars won 5-1.
In the game two win, Bull, a freshman, gave up only one run in a complete-game effort while tallying nine strikeouts. Bull’s nine strikeouts moved her into 10th place on BYU’s all-time career strikeout list.
The win also increased BYU’s current win-streak to 14 straight games.
BYU will go for a sweep of Saint Mary’s Saturday at 12 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast live on TheW.tv.