Junior Summer Tobias threw a four hitter in 10 innings to advance BYU to the final round. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
SAN -- The Cougars advanced to the Mountain West Conference Championship game Friday night with a 2-1 win over New Mexico in a marathon ten-inning game. BYU pitcher Summer Tobias went the distance for the Cougars, setting a new MWC tournament record with 14 strikeouts.
"A win is a win in a championship tournament and we'll take it," said BYU head coach Gordon Eakin. "Defense and execution win championships, and when your offense isn't there, your defense has to be. I'm proud of our girls for battling through and getting us through to tomorrow."
Tobias was the big winner as she went all 10 innings, surrendering only one run on four hits while striking out 14 and walking two. Jodi Norton also had a good night, going 2-for-3 with a single and a double. Krystle Chamberlain and Debbie Dodds scored the Cougars' two runs while Paige Paramore and Ianeta Le'i each recorded one RBI.
"I felt great out there," said Tobias, who moves to 18-6 on the season with the win. "I always have faith in our hitters so I just kept pitching and knew that they would come through."
The first inning was a pitcher's duel as both teams went three up three down. BYU's Tobias went to work early, striking out two of the first three Lobo hitters and getting the third to line out to second base. New Mexico pitcher Katie Gregg answered back with a strikeout of her own, in addition to a pop out from Krystle Chamberlain and a fly out from Paige Paramore to end the inning.
New Mexico's bats came to life to start the second inning as the first two batters singled. However, leadoff hitter Cassie Chavez was tagged out attempting to steal second and a fly out to left field along with Tobias' third strikeout left Lindsay Elcess stranded at first base.
The Cougars led off the bottom of the second with a single from power hitter Ianeta Le'i, but the Lobos turned a double play on a ball hit up the middle by Ashlyn Russell, clearing the bases. Lindi Kennedy got BYU back on track with a single down the third base line, but Jennifer Whiteley popped up to end the inning and leave Kennedy stranded.
Tobias dominated in the top of the third inning despite issuing one of her two walks in the game as she struck out each of the other three batters she faced. Jodi Norton began the bottom half of the inning with the Cougars' third hit of the game, a double over the center fielder's head.
Lauren Watson-Perry then came to the plate attempting to sacrifice Norton over to third but instead hit a blooper back to the pitcher, allowing the Lobos to throw Watson-Perry out at first and then get Norton as she headed to third. Chamberlain singled down the first base line on the next pitch but was left stranded as Debbie Dodds popped up to the shortstop, leaving the Cougars with four hits and no runs after three innings.
The Lobos went three up three down in the top of the fourth with Tobias recording her seventh strikeout. BYU also could not come up with any hits in the fourth inning as the Lobos retired the side to leave the game scoreless after four innings.
It was the same story in the top of the fifth inning as Tobias came up with two more strikeouts combined with an easy groundball to first base to retire the Lobos in order. BYU was also retired in order despite a one-out walk issued to Jennifer Whiteley. Whiteley was caught trying to steal second base for the second out of the side, which was followed by a strikeout to end the inning.
After BYU retired the side in the top of the sixth inning, Watson-Perry led off the bottom half of the inning with a base hit into center field. Chamberlain followed with a groundball to the shortstop, who got Watson-Perry out at second but not in time to turn the double play, leaving Chamberlain at first. Dodds then earned a free trip to first base, advancing Chamberlain to second with only one out.
Paramore followed with a line drive into left field for a single to load the bases with Le'i up next for BYU. The league's RBI leader stayed true to form, singling into left field to bring home Chamberlain and give the Cougars a 1-0 lead. New Mexico settled down and retired the next two batters to leave BYU with three runners stranded, but not before the damage had been done with a 1-0 Cougar lead.
Three outs away from advancing to the championship game, BYU started off the seventh inning turning a routine ground out to first base. However, the Lobos' Chavez lined into left field, putting the tying run on first base. But Tobias was unphased, recording her 11th strikeout on the next batter to set a new MWC championship game record.
The Cougars were not out of the woods yet, though, as Chavez stole second to move into scoring position with two outs. With the Lobo season on the line, New Mexico's Christina Rios ran up a full count before singling into left field to bring Chavez home and tie the game. A two-out walk moved Rios to second, but a fly out into left field ended the side, leaving the game knotted at 1-1.
Whiteley led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a single for BYU, beating out the throw to first. Norton advanced Whiteley with a line drive that went off the shortstop's glove and into left field, putting the winning run in scoring position for the Cougars with nobody out. After Watson-Perry struck out for the first out of the side, Chamberlain began the top of the order with a single into left field to load the bases. But the Cougars could not capitalize as Dodds struck out and Paramore grounded to the shortstop who flipped the ball to second base for the force out, sending the game into extra innings.
Tobias stayed in for BYU to start the eighth inning, getting another strikeout off the leadoff hitter. The next batter hit straight back to Tobias, who made the easy throw to first for the second out. Another easy grounder to first retired the side. The Cougars fared no better as they went three up three down with two strikeouts and a pop up to second base.
After being retired in order to start the ninth inning, the Lobos issued a four-pitch walk to Norton with one out. But Watson-Perry hit into the double play to end the inning and send the game into the tenth still tied at 1-1.
Iron woman Tobias pitched a solid tenth inning, recording two strikeouts while retiring the Lobos in order. In the bottom of the tenth, a one-out walk to Dodds again put the winning run on base. Dodds stole second on a wild pitch to move into scoring position. Paramore then came up with the hit BYU needed, singling into left field to bring in Dodds and seal the 2-1 victory for the Cougars.
BYU will play for the MWC Tournament title Saturday afternoon in a 4:30 pm PDT start against the winner of the Friday evening game between UNLV and Colorado State.