After a tough first loss to former Mountain West Conference opponent San Diego State, the BYU softball team came back strong to finish 4-1 in the San Diego Classic.
Last weekend, the BYU pitchers showed they could be focused and consistent. As a staff, they gave up only 21 hits in five games and held opponents to a batting average of .170.
Pitching coach Vaughn Alvey said he was proud of the way his staff executed at the weekend tournament.
“This is the best we’ve been,” Alvey said. “We gave up five runs in five games and we got the consistency that we’ve been looking for this weekend.”
In Game 1 against San Diego State, junior Hannah Howell gave up only one run on four hits to pitch the first complete game of her career. Unfortunately, the Cougars (13-7) couldn’t produce offensively leaving eight players on base and only picking up five hits. Junior Alexandra Hudson had two of those five hits, going 2-for-3 in the game. The score remained 0-0 until San Diego State hit a two-out walk-off single in the seventh to claim the win, 1-0.
Head coach Gordon Eakin said he was disappointed in the way his team played offensively.
“We left way too many runners on base,” Eakin said. “We couldn’t get a key hit when we needed it and we didn’t execute the way we needed to.”
On Day 2 of the tournament, the BYU pitching staff continued to dominate its opponents.
Sophomore Tori Almond earned her first win of the season to beat Cal-State Northridge for the second time this season, 4-1. Almond gave up only four hits while also striking out seven en route to her first complete game of the season. Senior Delaney Willard and sophomore Katie Manuma both had two hits apiece, while sophomore Jenna Goar brought in two runs off a two-out double in the top of the seventh inning.
Almond said she felt good about her performance on the mound this weekend.
“I think it was really good for our whole team to see that we could battle back,” Almond said. “I am going to take the improvements I made this weekend and run with them.”
In Game 3 of the tournament, freshman pitcher Caroline Umphlett continued where Howell and Almond left off. Umphlett pitched four shutout innings against St. Joseph’s, giving up two hits and no runs. Howell came into the game in relief of Umphlett, pitching four innings of her own and giving up only two runs on four hits.
The Cougar offense continued to have a difficult time getting on base throughout the game but came out victorious to beat the Hawks, 3-2. Hudson was again big at the plate, going 2-for-4 while also driving in the tying run and scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth for the Cougars.
Day 3 of the classic proved to be the best day for BYU pitchers, holding opponents to only one run and six hits.
Howell earned her sixth win of the season in the first game against Long Beach State. Late-game heroics from Carly Duckworth helped spur the Cougars over the 49ers. Duckworth’s pinch hit to left field proved to be the game changer, bringing in Ashlee Brawlee to win the game 2-1.
Duckworth said she was happy she was given the chance to pinch hit in such a big situation.
“It felt great just to be able to be given the opportunity and to have my team rallying behind me,” Duckworth said. “It’s a really good feeling because you have your whole team behind you and they want you to get that last hit.”
Going into the last game of the day, Eakin said he hoped the offense would step up to the level he knew they were capable of.
“I used some internal coach motivation to try to get the team to step up their game before we played Charlotte,” Eakin said.
Eakin’s words must have worked because the last game of the tournament was by far the best in all aspects for the Cougars. Almond earned her second win of the year, only giving up one hit to Charlotte and limiting its batters to a .062 batting average. The offense also stepped up its game, winning big to end the game in five innings, 9-0. Seniors Jessica Dugas and Delaney Willard both had three RBIs, while Duckworth hit her third home run of the year and was 2-for-2 in the game.
BYU is set to play Utah in Salt Lake City on March 7, if the weather allows. The game will be broadcast live on BYU Radio.