(Photo by BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)
PROVO, Utah – The Cougars dropped a 9-3 decision to the University of Houston during game one of the doubleheader on Saturday followed by a close 3-2 loss in game two at Gail Miller Field.
The Cougars (14-18, 4-0 PCSC) had to play catch-up in both games, but were unable to cap a comeback. Houston (22-10) displayed strong pitching on the day to seal the three-game sweep.
“What we need to do is be more consistent on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively,” BYU assistant coach Vaughn Alvey said. “We get behind in counts early in games and give up runs early in games. It takes the air out of everybody’s sails. We need to score early and keep our opponents from scoring early.”
Despite keeping the score within striking distance for the majority of the game, BYU (14-17) couldn’t overcome a five-run Houston (21-10) seventh inning in the 9-3 loss.
The Cougar pitching staff struggled during the first game with Tori Almond, Katie Manuma and Hannah Howell each finding time on the mound. Almond dropped to 5-4 on the season, recording the loss for Cougars.
Houston pitcher Diedre Outon (3-3) had a solid performance during the opening game, pitching a complete game and giving up three runs. BYU finished with three runs on nine hits, while Houston scored nine runs on 10 hits for the victory.
Houston got off to a hot start, getting on board in the first inning. Centerfielder Haley Outon hit a line drive two-run home run over the center field wall to put the Scarlet Cougars up 2-0.
Houston’s Julia Pecina got on base in the top of the second with a long double over Carly Duckworth’s head. With the bases loaded and two outs, the next Houston batter squeezed a single into right field to drive in two runs and up its lead to 4-0.
The Cougars came close to narrowing Houston’s four-run lead with bases loaded in the bottom of the second and third innings, but weren't able to capitalize.
BYU’s defense kept the Houston offense off the board in the fourth and fifth innings with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Marissa Bravo got on base for the Cougars with a single into left field. Manuma then singled up the middle to advance Bravo into scoring position before Alexandra Hudson Shamo drove a single into the left-field gap to bring in the team's first run of the game.
The Cougars left Lacey Millett stranded in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth, before Houston caught fire with the bats in the top of the seventh. The Scarlet Cougars added five insurance runs on five hits to up their lead to 9-1.
Looking to rally in the bottom of the seventh, pinch-hitter Jenna Goar singled to shortstop. The Cougars next batter, pinch-hitter Megan Arnold hit a bouncing ball to shortstop to beat out the throw to first. Hicken advanced to first with one out after being hit by Outon from the mound. Coryn Taualii then reached base on a fielder’s choice, driving in Goar to narrow the Houston gap to 9-2. The Cougars went on to score another run, but came up short for the 9-3 loss.
Never trailing by more than one run, the Cougars couldn't complete the comeback and dropped a 3-2 decision.
Howell recorded the loss for the Cougars to fall to 5-12 on the season. JC Clayton had a solid game from the plate, hitting 3 for 4 and scoring two runs. Third baseman Ashlee Brawley Robinson had a strong defensive effort, finishing the game with six assists.
Houston got on the board in the first inning for the third time in the series. With runners on the corners, Houston baited catcher Anna Hudson into throwing to second to get the runner and in turn brought in the Scarlet Cougars' first run from third base.
BYU held Houston scoreless during the second and third innings, fueled by strong defense and pitching from Duckworth. In the bottom of the third, Clayton hit a hard single near second base and beat out the throw to reach first safely. Millett advanced Clayton to second after laying down a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Shamo blasted a single over the head of the third baseman to drive in Clayton and tie the game at one apiece through three.
Houston battled back, retaking the lead in the top of the fourth. With a runner on second base, first baseman Jaime Edwards singled to right field, driving in a run. Duckworth got out of the inning with a timely strikeout, but the advantage remained in favor of Houston 2-1 after four innings of play.
Howell substituted in relief of Duckworth in the top of the fifth inning, getting out of the inning with no damage done. BYU tied the score in the bottom of the fifth at two apiece when Manuma drove home Clayton from third with a hard single between the third baseman and shortstop.
In the top of the sixth, Houston regained the lead at 3-2. BYU tried to answer, but instead left Duckworth stranded at third in the bottom of the frame.
In the top of the seventh, BYU got out of a jam with Houston leaving two runners in scoring position. Going into the bottom of the inning trailing by one, Millett reached base on a fielding error with one out. Bravo singled up the middle and Shamo followed with a full-count walk to load the bases. Duckworth then hit a pop-fly to right field to seal the game and allow Houston to leave with the three-game sweep.
The Cougars return to action and conference play at Utah Valley University April 5 with a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. MDT.