PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico - Sophomore Mercedes O'Connor blasted two home runs in a stellar day at the plate en route to BYU softball's two wins in day two of the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge Friday.
The Cougars (12-6) topped Northern Colorado (4-5-1) 5-4 in the early game with O'Connor's second homer of the game in the top of the seventh. In the afternoon game, they cruised past Southern Illinois University (2-6-1) for the 8-0 win, completing the sweep on the day. BYU tallied 11 and 10 hits, respectively, in the games Friday. It is the third time in the past four games the team has totaled at least 10 hits.
"It was nice to win both games today," BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. "We started the day slow again, but to the players' credit, we didn't panic, kept fighting and turned it around to finish strong."
O'Connor led the Cougars with her bat, hitting 6-for-8 with a double, six RBI and a stolen base to go along with her two home runs on the day.
"O'Connor had a monster day in both games," Eakin said. "After a bad start in game one, McKenna Bull came back in relief and pitched well in the sixth and seventh innings. In game two she pitched very well. Arianna Paulson did a good job in relief for us in game one, only giving up one run and keeping us in the game until the sixth inning."
The freshman Paulson was instrumental down the stretch against Northern Colorado, pitching four innings and only allowing two hits and one run while striking out five. The sophomore Bull started both games, coming back in the end of the first game in relief to pick up the win over the Bears before pitching a shutout in the second game against the Salukis. She gave up only five hits and two earned runs with 11 strikeouts in 10 innings of work, upping her record to 12-3 on the season.
At the plate junior Gordy Bravo also shined with a 5-for-8 hitting performance including two stolen bases while sophomore Sydney Broderick hit 3-for-6 with two RBI in the two games. Sophomores McKenzie St. Clair and Ashley Thompson each drove in runs with one and two, respectively.
Northern Colorado shut down the BYU side in the top of the first before getting on the board early with a three-run bottom half of the frame.
The Cougars climbed back with St. Clair's RBI-sinlge to left field, cutting the score to 3-1.
The freshman pitcher Paulson relieved Bull in the second to throw four scoreless innings as BYU clawed back into the game with a three-run fifth.
O'Connor's first home run of the year–a three-run shot to left center–put the Cougars ahead 4-3.
UNC tacked on another in the bottom of the fifth to even the score at four apiece.
In the sixth inning, Bull came back into the circle to relieve Paulson, getting out of a jam with runners on base, heading into the seventh with the game still tied.
O'Connor led off the final frame, driving a 3-1 pitch for the solo home run for her second of the game, putting BYU up one for the difference-maker in the game.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Bears went down in order with the last one swinging to end the game.
The sophomore Thompson got the Cougars on the board in the top of the first with a two-RBI single to take a 2-0 lead that lasted through the fifth inning.
From the circle Bull stymied the Saluki attack while allowing only two hits in the outing.
BYU tacked on three runs in both the sixth and the seventh innings to extend its lead. O'Connor and Broderick cashed in one and two RBI, respectively, in the sixth. Caitlyn Larsen and Brittany Call scored on unearned runs in the seventh and O'Connor gathered in her sixth RBI on the day, tallying an 8-0 score.
The Cougars then retired the SIU side in order to end the game.
BYU closes out the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge with another game against the Salukis Saturday at 10 a.m. CST.