After a tough early loss in their first preseason tournament, the BYU softball team finished strong Saturday, beating two ranked NCAA teams and returning home with a winning record.
Freshman pitcher Caroline Umphlett finished the weekend with a 3-0 record, helping the Cougars knock off No. 11 Oregon and No.15 Texas A&M in her first college softball tournament. BYU finished the Kajikawa Classic with a 3-2 record. Senior Delaney Willard also had an impressive tournament, hitting three home runs in four games and finishing the weekend with a batting average of .530.
BYU played Oregon State in its first game of the tournament Thursday. The teams’ nerves and inexperience showed through early as the team, riddled with errors, gave up 22 runs to the Beavers. The game broke a record for the most ever runs to be scored by a BYU opponent in Cougar softball history, including 16 in the second inning.
After a hard first day, BYU went on to play No. 16 Texas A&M and Texas State on Friday.
Following a three-run bomb by Willard in the first inning, the Cougars held onto their lead with tough defense and pitching to beat ranked Texas A&M, 3-2. Umphlett earned her first win of the season, pitching 3 1/3 innings with five hits, three walks and one earned run. Junior pitcher Hannah Howell also threw in relief and earned her first save of the season.
Head coach Gordon Eakin said he was proud of the way his team bounced back after such a hard loss.
“We could have easily given up,” Eakin said. “The positive was that we bounced back. We have a young team and we lack in experience but we fought hard and showed a lot of fight, character and fortitude.”
The Cougars went on to play Texas State in the second game Friday, losing a 6-2 game to the Bobcats.
Saturday brought about positive results as the Cougars finished the Kajiwaka Classic by beating both No. 11 Oregon (2-1) and UC Santa Barbara (12-4, six innings). Senior Jessica Dugas hit 4-of-7 on the day, while Willard added onto her home run tally by tacking on another one against UC Santa Barbara.
Willard said she her mindset was only to help her team win games.
“I was seeing the ball well and I felt good at home plate,” Willard said. “It was just a good weekend. And I wanted our team to do the best that we [could].”
Umphlett earned her second and third win for the season against Oregon and UC Santa Barbara.
Eakin said he was pleased with his freshman pitcher and her first outing as a college athlete.
“She did great,” Eakin said. “For a freshman, she showed poise and confidence.”
Umphlett said she was more than excited about her first college softball appearance.
“My first college softball tournament was amazing,” Umphlett said. “College softball is definitely different. The whole game is faster and you have to be on your toes for everything. I couldn’t have [won] without my team and the other pitchers.”
The Cougars play next in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Nevada Thursday, Feb. 16-Saturday, Feb. 18.