Bull, hitting propels Cougars to wins over Northwestern, UNLV
LAS VEGAS – Sophomore McKenna Bull’s pitching and a team season-high 12 hits propelled BYU softball to wins over Northwestern and UNLV Friday at the Wilson/DeMarini Desert Classic.
The Cougars (5-3) beat the Wildcats 5-1 with a five-run sixth inning, avenging an NCAA tournament loss in the last game of the season in 2014.They also held off a late-inning rally using 12 team hits and team defense to win 6-5 over the Rebels in their second game of the day. BYU is now 36-12 all-time against UNLV.
“I think the mark of a good team is to win even when you’re not hitting on all cylinders,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “We haven’t been clicking in every area—offensively, defensively and on the mound—but we’ve been winning so we’ll take it.”
Bull picked up two wins, improving to 5-1 overall while allowing eight hits, five earned runs and striking out 10 in 12.1 innings of work on the day.
Leading the Cougars from the plate were outfielders Gordy Bravo and Mercedes O’Connor. Bravo went 3-for-7 with a double, two RBI and a stolen base. O’Connor hit 3-for-5 with a double, three RBI and a .729 OBP. Sophomores McKenzie St. Clair, Ashley Thompson and Sydney Broderick each had two hits apiece on the day. Broderick also had two RBI. Senior Lacey Hofstedt continued her hitting streak, upping it to eight while junior Coco Tauali'i had two doubles on the day. The catcher Broderick also caught two runners stealing and picked off a runner at first against UNLV.
“In the Northwestern game we just gutted it up and outlasted them and made the plays at the end of the game to win,” Eakin added. “Against UNLV it was a complete defensive effort that won that game. I’m very impressed with our defense.”
Both teams battled a scoreless tie through the first five innings with only one hit combined between both sides.
In the top of the sixth, Northwestern led off with a single to center field. The runner advanced to second on the next batter’s sacrifice bunt and then to third base on a passed ball. Northwestern struck first with a sacrifice fly to center field for the game’s first run.
The Cougars stormed back, opening up a five-run scoring flurry. With one out in the bottom of the frame, shortstop Alexa Strid doubled down the left field line, pulling an 0-2 pitch and getting it to hit off the lower part of the outfield wall. Bravo then followed with a single up the middle, advancing Strid to third and then taking second for her first stolen base of the season.
With runners on second and third, Hofstedt hit a bloop single down the left field line barely into the outfield, scoring Strid to even the game at 1-1. O’Connor continued her hot hitting with an RBI-single up the middle, helping Bravo come home.
An infield fly gave the Wildcats a second out before Broderick pulled a 3-0 pitch to right field, cashing in both runners for a two-RBI triple. St. Clair then singled up the middle for BYU’s sixth hit of the inning, driving in Broderick for the fifth run and the 5-1 lead. The Cougars then shut down the side to clinch their second win of the tournament.
BYU struck early in the game, taking a 2-0 advantage over the Rebels in the top of the second. St. Clair got a base hit to left field and then scored after Tauali’i’s first double of the game. Then with two outs, Bravo had a base hit of her own, scoring Tauali’i from third.
The Cougars then cashed in two runs in the fifth led off by Lauren Bell’s double down the right field line. O’Connor continued her productive hitting with an RBI-single to center, advancing to second on the throw. Bell scored on the play. Thompson then turned in an RBI-single of her own, scoring O’Connor and helping take a 4-0 lead.
UNLV broke on to the board for the first time in the game, drawing a walk, advancing to second on a wild pitch and scoring on a base hit to right field.
BYU scored two runs again to go up 6-1. This time Hofstedt scored on a Bravo single and Bravo scored on an O’Connor double. Hofstedt also stretched her hitting streak to eight games in the inning.
With a 6-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Rebels countered with a four-run rally. A single by Halle Rosario led off the frame and Chrissi Omalza drew a walk before a passed ball advanced both runners to second and third. UNLV then doubled to left center to clear the bases, cutting the lead to 6-3. The Rebels followed that up with a two-run shot over the centerfield fence before the inning ended with a 6-5 score.
The Cougars then left three on base in the top of the seventh as the game stayed close going into the seventh 6-5.
The BYU defense held the Rebels in the bottom half with two key defensive plays. With a runner on first base, Thompson made a diving catch in the infield and then threw back to first to pick off the runner for a momentous double play. The final out of the game featured second baseman Bell salvaging a deflection off Bull’s glove and then powering the throw in time to first base to get the runner.
The Cougars finish up play in the Desert Classic Saturday against UTEP at 9 a.m. PST and Cal State Fullerton at 11:15 a.m. Live stats will be available on the BYU softball schedule page.