Cougars bounce back after loss, stay alive in NCAA Regionals
SALT LAKE CITY – After falling 3-2 against No. 16/17 Utah in the first game of the day, No. 21 BYU softball kept its postseason hopes alive with a decisive 12-1 run-rule win against Fordham in the NCAA Salt Lake City Regional on Friday.
“I am proud of the team for being resilient through the tough loss to Utah,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “It’s not easy to do to be able to regain your composure, put it behind you and come out and play a solid game. They did that and I’m proud of that effort. We will get a little bit of rest tonight and come back tomorrow ready to fight as hard as we can.”
The last time BYU (46-12) won at least two games in an NCAA Regional was in 2012 when the Cougars defeated Mississippi State and Portland State. The Cougars will stay alive and face the Utes (35-14) again on Saturday. BYU has also tied the program record for the most wins in a season with 46.
McKenna Bull and Arissa Paulson split the pitching duties today. Bull tossed three strikeouts against Utah without giving up a walk. Paulson had four strikeouts with one walk in the win over Fordham (46-17), eliminating the Rams from the NCAA Regionals.
Despite having a lead heading into the final inning, BYU had its first loss of the NCAA regionals against in-state rival Utah, falling 3-2 on a walk-off single. The Cougars left 11 stranded throughout the game, falling short on scoring opportunities.
After both teams went three up, three down in the first inning, BYU got on board first in the top of the second. With runners on first and second, Alexa Strid hit a single up the middle, giving Ashley Thompson time to slide home. However, the Utes answered back in the bottom frame, scoring on an RBI double to tie it at 1-1.
In the third inning, strong defense from the two teams ended scoring threats. The Cougars loaded up the bases, but Thompson lined into a double play to end the frame. In the bottom of the third, the Utes got runners on first and second, but Lauren Bell, Strid and Thompson turned a double play of their own to get out of a jam.
Thompson faced loaded bases again in the top of the fifth. This time she hit an RBI single to the gap between third and short, scoring Bell to take the 2-1 lead.
Following a scoreless sixth inning, Utah rallied. An RBI double tied the game, and a blooper to centerfield scored the game-winner in a walk-off. BYU dropped the first game 3-2.
Following Fordham’s win over Mississippi State in the first elimination game, the Rams and Cougars faced off in the second. BYU came out on top 12-1 in five innings. Libby Sugg went 3 for 3 with three runs and four RBI, while Thompson went 3 for 4 with two runs and one RBI.
The Cougars got things rolling right away, scoring three runs in the top of the first. Libby Sugg started it off by hitting a double to bring in Lexi Tarrow. In the next at bat, Thompson hit an RBI single to right field, scoring Sugg. Caitlyn Larsen Alldredge hit a single to left field, giving Thompson time to run safely home for the 3-0 advantage.
After a scoreless second inning, BYU brought in more runs. Briielle Breland got it started after she was walked with the bases loaded, bringing Sugg safely home. Brooke Vander Heide followed that with a single up the middle that scored two. A double to left field from Bell and a single from Tarrow tallied three more runs, then Sugg blasted a two-run homer over left field to make it 11-0 at the end of the frame.
Fordham avoided the shutout in the bottom of the third after a triple to left center with one out scored its first run. However, Paulson and the defense stayed strong, getting the next two outs to hold the 11-1 lead after three innings.
Sugg added one more run in the top of the fifth. She hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, allowing Rylee Jensen time to tag up and score. The Cougars held their 12-1 lead, getting the Rams to go three up, three down to win the game.
Next up, BYU will play Utah in a win-or-go-home rematch on Saturday at 2 p.m. MDT. It will be live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN, along with radio options on BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143.