PROVO, Utah – Fueled by a strong offensive output in the fourth inning of game one and a walk-off RBI in the bottom of the seventh inning of game two, BYU took the opening two games of a four-games series with Saint Mary's 14-6 and 4-3, respectively, on Friday at Gail Miller Field.
With the two victories the Cougars (30-23, 17-5 PCSC) are only one win away from securing their ninth-straight NCAA appearance as the regular season conference champions. The Gaels dropped to 20-28 overall on the season and 11-11 in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference.
“Those were huge wins for us,” head coach Gordon Eakin said. “It looked like we were down and out in the first game, but we came back and lit it up offensively. It was probably the best offensive output of the year for us. We kind of gave it to them in that second game, but the girls showed a lot of heart coming back. I knew that when we tied it up in the sixth that the part of the order we had coming up in the seventh would take care of business and they did.”
BYU rallied with an 11-hit, 11-run fourth inning to overcome a five-run deficit, defeating Saint Mary’s 14-6 during game one of Friday’s doubleheader.
The Cougars' 11-run inning ties for second most runs in an inning by BYU at Gail Miller Field. BYU also had a season-high 14 runs scored on 18 hits in the game.
Shortstop JC Clayton finished 4 for 4, with 2 RBI to lead the Cougars. Katie Manuma finished 2 for 3 with 2 RBI and also recorded her fourth victory of the season from behind the mound.
Saint Mary’s got the bats swinging early in the first. Second baseman Brittany Sabatini led off the Gael’s offensive charge, reaching second with a line drive to center field. With two outs, Sarah Lira hit a deep line drive to center field to score Sabatini. Saint Mary’s added another run with a bloop-single into left center to take the 2-0 advantage.
BYU managed to put a runner in scoring position following a hard line drive from Madisen Robb, but BYU couldn’t bring her around to score.
Saint Mary’s extended its lead in the top of the third. Lira hit her second double of the game with a long ball to right center to lead off the third inning for the Gaels. Saint Mary’s upped their lead to 4-0 after Elizabeth Slaughter smacked her first home run of the season over the left-field fence. With just one out, Saint Mary’s added another double to push the lead to 5-0 and prompt a BYU pitching change. Manuma came in relief of Hannah Howell and with the bases loaded, forced a ground out to retire the side.
The Cougars got on the board in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, Manuma hit a hard grounder to second base to drive in Clayton from third, narrowing the SMC lead to four runs.
Down 5-1 in the bottom of the fourth, BYU rallied with 11 runs on 11 hits to take a 12-5 lead. With one out and the bases loaded, Duckworth hit a hard shot off the third baseman’s glove to drive in Bailie Hicken. BYU’s next batter, Gordy Bravo was hit by a pitch to score another run. The Cougars next three batters all singled to drive in four more runs, followed by a two-RBI double from Robb to extend the BYU lead to 9-5. BYU added three more runs on the inning as Clayton singled to second base to bring in two more runs.
Saint Mary’s added one run in the top of the fifth, but couldn’t complete a comeback. The Cougars cruised to a 14-6 victory, scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth to win via the eight-run rule.
Senior Alexandra Shamo singled up the middle in the bottom of the seventh inning to drive home Duckworth for the first walk-off RBI of her career to give BYU the 4-3 win.
The second game of the four game series featured strong pitching from both teams. BYU’s Tori Almond finished with six strikeouts to outduel Saint Mary’s ace Lujane Mussadi, keeping the Cougars within striking distance down 3-1 midway through the game.
Robb finished 2 for 2, including two doubles, with one RBI, while Duckworth went 2 for 4 from the plate and scored two runs.
BYU took an early one-run lead in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Bravo doubled down the line to advance Duckworth to third. Manuma then brought in Duckworth on a fielder’s choice to put BYU up 1-0.
Strong pitching dominated the second and third innings. Almond found her groove, retiring six straight Saint Mary’s batters through the second and third innings. Mussadi retired all three BYU batters in the bottom of the third inning to keep the score 1-0 in favor of BYU.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, Saint Mary’s took advantage of two Cougar errors to score three runs. Lira and Slaughter both reached base with singles to left field, before Hazel doubled to right center. All three runners scored after errant throws from second baseman Taualii and catcher Mylee Davis to give the Gaels two unearned runs in the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, Taualii singled up the middle and Robb reached base on a walk. With two outs, Millett hit a bouncing ball that deflected off of the first baseman’s glove to score Taualii and narrow the Gael lead to 3-2.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and Bravo on first, Saint Mary’s turned a 6-4-3 double play to preserve the one run advantage through five. Almond retired all three Gael batters in the top of the sixth to keep the Cougars within reach.
In the bottom of the sixth with one out and Taualii on first, Robb struck again with her third double of the day to drive in a run and tie the score up at three apiece.
The Gaels looked to take the lead in the top of the seventh, but strong pitching from Almond held the score.
Leading off for the Cougars in the bottom, Duckworth got on with a hit into the left-field gap. Bravo advanced Duckworth into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt before Manuma singled to right field to send Duckworth to third. In heroic fashion, Shamo smacked a single right up the middle to drive in Duckworth and seal the 4-3 victory for the Cougars.
The Cougars will look to secure a post-season berth during tomorrow’s doubleheader against Saint Mary’s with the opening pitch of game one set for 11 a.m. MDT.