By Brandon Wells
The BYU softball team was eliminated from the NCAA Championships last weekend after going 1-2 during regional action in Fresno, Calif.
The Cougars upset California 3-1 on Thursday, then were swept by both Fresno State and California, 3-0 and 9-0, on Friday.
The Cougars, ranked No. 25 in the country, approached the game against No. 2 California knowing they could win if they just stayed focused.
?We know we always have a good chance, especially with a team like this,? catcher Lauren Watson-Perry said. ?We had noth-ing to lose so we knew we had to go all out against this team.?
California started the game aggressively with a run from Alex Sutton”s single up the center, making the score 1-0.
The Cougars? hitting game was shut down when Cal?s Kristina Thorson (1.00 ERA) pitched a no-hitter through the first five innings. Lauren Watson-Perry, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, changed the game?s momentum with a single to left field in the sixth inning. Krystle Chamberlain followed Watson-Perry with a single into left field. Watson-Perry then stole third on a wild pitch while power hitter Ianeta Le?i popped out to the shortstop.
Cal?s pitching lost its confidence when Thorson intentionally walked clutch slugger, Ashley Russell, loading the bases. With two outs and two strikes, Paige Paramore made a crucial line drive to left field, sending Watson-Perry, Chamberlain and pinch runner Milli Jones home and putting BYU ahead, 3-1.
The Cougars? Summer Tobias sent California to the loser?s bracket in the seventh, striking out the Bears? first batter and mak-ing a double play off of a pop fly, earning a victory over one of the most respected teams in the nation.
BYU advanced only to face an upset on Friday to Fresno State when pitcher Jamie Southern (ERA 0.40) shut down BYU?s hitting squad by throwing a no-hitter.
“I thought Jamie was exceptional throughout the entire game,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “She threw really well and we expected that out of her. I expected we would get some hits off her, too.”
BYU held Fresno State scoreless until the fifth inning, when the Bulldogs made three clutch hits for three runs. Between start-ing pitcher Danielle Urincho and reliever Brooke Boyce, the Cougars allowed only four hits and no runs for the remainder of the game. But the three-run deficit was too much for the Cougars to make up.
BYU?s second battle against California was quite different from their last match-up. California?s hitting stepped up with nine runs on 10 hits, forcing BYU to change pitchers three times.
California?s pitching staff also came through and pitched a no-hitter against BYU?s power hitting squad.
The game ended in the fifth inning after the umpires applied the mercy rule of eight runs or more, giving BYU two losses in the tournament and sending them home empty handed.
But the Cougars, who won the Mountain West Conference title and were ranked in the top 25 for the first time in team history, there was no reason to hang their heads.
“It”s been a great ride through all the injuries, winning the Mountain West Conference and playing in this tournament,” BYU head coach Eakin said. “I”m proud of the girls and we”ll be back.”