Arnold smashed her second home run of the season to start the fourth for BYU. (Photo by Jonathan Hardy/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – Fueled by two solo shot home runs, BYU defeated Utah 4-2 in the Deseret First Duel at Gail Miller Field Saturday afternoon, concluding their regular season schedule.
Pitcher Tori Almond had a strong effort in the circle and recorded the victory for the Cougars (33-13) to improve to 12-6 on the season. BYU finished with 12 hits, while Utah (24-30-1) added seven of their own. Ute pitcher Mariah Ramirez dropped to 10-13 with the loss.
"Our team has finally started to gel and play good softball," head coach Gordon Eakin said. "Obviously it's always nice to win this game against Utah."
Senior JC Clayton broke the all-time steals record, earning her 47th career steal in the win, and also hit 2 for 4 on the day. Gordy Bravo finished 3 for 4 with one RBI, while Manuma went 2 for 3 in the Cougar victory. Coco Taualii and Megan Arnold both added solo-shot home runs in the victory.
Both teams remained scoreless through 1.5 innings of play. Almond made a nice defensive play in the top of the second inning after catching a line drive and turning the double play at second.
Leading off the top of the second, Taualii hit a deep solo-shot home run over the left field wall to give the Cougars the one-run advantage. With two outs, Clayton hit a bouncing infield single to reach first. Lacey Millett scored as the shortstop's throw soared over the first baseman's head to up the Cougars lead to 2-0.
Almond retired all six Ute batters in the third and fourth innings to keep Utah off the scoreboard, preserving the Cougars two-run advantage.
The Cougars added two more runs in the fourth inning. Leading off, Arnold hit a pinch-hit home-run over the left-field wall to give BYU a 3-0 advantage. The solo shot marked Arnold’s second homer of the season. BYU’s next two batters, Millett and Clayton, both reached base on singles, before Clayton stole second to put runners on second and third.With the steal, the senior broke the all-time steals record, earning her 47th career steal. The Cougars extended their lead to four later in the inning as Gordy Bravo singled up the middle to bring in Clayton for the score.
Looking to narrow the BYU lead, Utah continued to struggle from the plate in the top of the fifth, as Almond retired all three Ute batters. Hannah Howell replaced Almond in the circle in the top of the sixth after allowing only two hits through five innings of play on 71 pitches.
The score remained 4-0 through six innings of play, before three-straight Ute batters hit singles to load the bases with no one out in the top of the seventh. Utah designated player Marissa Mendenhall doubled to center field, scoring two Ute runners in a wild transition along the base paths. During the play, Clayton attempted to tag out a runner, but slipped and was taken off the field due to an injury.
With one out, Almond re-entered the game to replace Howell and the Cougars cruised to a 4-2 victory. Ashlee Brawley Robinson, who had come in to replace the injured Clayton, recorded the final out for BYU.
The Cougars will next compete in the NCAA tournament with a pending announcement determining where they will play. Watch the selection show tomorrow at 8 p.m. MDT on ESPNU.