Freshman pitcher Daniella Urincho was named MWC Tournament MVP after helping the Cougars to the MWC title with two wins. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
SAN -- The Cougars took home the Mountain West Conference Tournament trophy Saturday afternoon with a 2-0 win over UNLV in the title game. BYU also landed five players on the All-Tournament team, including Tournament MVP pitcher Daniella Urincho, who went 2-0 with two earned runs and seven hits as well as Ianeta Le'i, Summer Tobias, Jodi Norton and Paige Paramore.
"I was really surprised to get the MVP award, but I knew that I had pitched pretty well," said Urincho. "It was really our defense, though. I couldn't have done it without them."
While the last two tournament games were low scoring, the Cougars depended on their defense to carry them through.
"Defense and execution are always the keys to winning games, and ours was incredible today," said BYU head coach Gordon Eakin. "We've had a tremendous season at 44-12 and we're looking forward to finding out where we go from here."
By virtue of the league's automatic bid, the Cougars will now await Sunday's announcement of the NCAA Tournament brackets to determine when and where their postseason play will continue.
After retiring the first three UNLV hitters in order, the Cougars got their offense going early with a one-out single straight up the middle from Debbie Dodds. Dodds stole second with two outs to move into scoring position but was left stranded when Le'i lined out to the shortstop.
The top of the second inning gave Krystle Chamberlain a workout in left field as she caught two long fly balls to contribute to a three up three down inning for UNLV. The bottom half of the inning looked to be the same for BYU until Jennifer Whiteley came up with a two-out single for the Cougars' second hit of the game. Jodi Norton then doubled all the way to the left field wall to bring Whiteley home and give BYU a 1-0 lead after two innings.
Cougar pitcher Urincho took a perfect game into the third inning, striking out the first batter and getting the second to ground out to Dodds at second base. However, Urincho then issued a four-pitch walk to Rebel Amber Campbell. The next hitter lined one that looked like it was going into center field until Dodds made a diving catch to get the out and leave Campbell stranded.
Chamberlain got BYU started off right in the bottom of the third with a blooper to the third baseman, who couldn't make the throw in time. Dodds then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Chamberlain to second base. Paramore followed with a single to the left fielder, who made an error on the catch, allowing Paramore to take second and Chamberlain to come all the way home and give BYU a 2-0 lead. Le'i and Russell both struck out to record the final two outs of the inning but not before the Cougars had extended their lead.
The Rebels threatened in the top of the fourth inning, getting their second baserunner of the game by virtue of a walk. But freshman Lindi Kennedy thwarted the comeback attempt as she made a running catch in right field on the next batter to end the side. The Cougars were retired in order in the bottom half of the inning, leaving the game 2-0 in favor of BYU.
UNLV tried to battle back in the top of the fifth inning with a one-out single followed by another base hit to put the tying run on board. Urincho responded by getting the next batter to pop up to Dodds behind second base. A fly out to left center field ended the side and stranded the tying run for UNLV.
After Urincho flied out to the center field wall, Chamberlain took one for the team in the bottom of the fifth inning as she was hit by a pitch and awarded first base. A three-pitch strikeout by Dodds brought Paramore to the plate. Chamberlain stole second on the first pitch to BYU's designated player but was left stranded on another three-pitch strikeout.
Rebel Caitlyn Paus led off the sixth inning with a double into right field, but UNLV was unable to capitalize as the next three batters were retired in order to end the side. BYU's net three batters were also retired in order to end the inning, leaving the Cougars three outs away from the tournament title.
Cougar Milli Jones came into right field for Kennedy and made the first out of the seventh inning on a long fly ball. However, Rebel Pauline Glenn hit a blooper to second base that was mishandled by Dodds, allowing Glenn to remain safe at first base on the Cougar error. BYU's Norton fielded a grounder from the next batter and flipped to second to get Glenn on the force out, leaving a runner at first with two outs.
However, a pitch in the dirt that was too hot for catcher Lauren Watson-Perry to handle allowed UNLV's pinch runner to advance to second, giving the Rebels hope for a comeback. But Urincho refused to back down, striking out the next batter to give her team the Championship title.