Walk-off RBI puts BYU over SJSU

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Fireworks lit up the sky over Miller Field on Friday night as BYU’s softball team defeated SJSU 5-4 in the first of three weekend games.

The Cougars entered the game against San Jose State with the highest batting average in the Western Athletic Conference. They needed a strong hitting performance again tonight to keep them ahead of the Spartans who are ranked fourth in the conference. BYU, 9-4 in conference play, is seeded third with only one game separating the two. Head Coach Gordon Eakin is not content with holding third in the conference though.

“Our mentality is still to win every game,” Eakin said. “Our thoughts and focus are still on winning every game…we’ll let the seeding take care of itself.”

A pair of singles was the only offense in the first inning. The game looked early to be a battle of pitching as BYU’s Hannah Howell accrued five strikeouts in the first three innings and SJSU’s Amanda Pridmore, four. Delaney Willard, two-time WAC hitter of the week, punched a two RBI single to break the stalemate.

In the top of the fourth inning, SJSU answered with a three-run homerun from the centerfielder, Vanessa House. Her bases-loaded shot to the scoreboard put the Spartans up one until the Cougar’s JC Clayton tied the game with a triple to deep left field.

Ashlee Brawley ended the Spartan’s hopes of taking the lead back  in the sixth with a timely double-play. Krista Hicks singled to left field and Bailie Hicken replaced her as a pinch runner. Pridmore walked Brawley, which advanced Hicken to second. In a display of aggressive base running, Hicken stole third and, in the confusion that followed, Brawley stole second.

Shelbi Everett came to the plate with one out and two players in scoring position. Her bunt popped up and was caught by Pridmore. The pitcher then overthrew third base in an attempt to get Hicken out who was sliding back into third. Hicken jumped up and got home to takeover the lead for the Cougars.

“At first, Coach was just yelling, ‘back, back, back!’ So I turned around and slid back into third. Next thing I know, he’s yelling, ‘go, go, go!’ I was confused at first, but then I saw that the ball had been overthrown and took off for home.”

San Jose State hit a ball deep to centerfield in the top of the seventh inning to bring in the tying run before the Cougars got the third out and brought up their turn to bat. Clayton got to second on SJSU’s third fielding error of the game and then Willard, BYU’s current RBI leader and fourth all-time, got walked. Katie Manuma stepped up to the plate with the pressure of hitting in the winning run on her shoulders.

“I was just thinking I need a base hit; all I need is a base hit.” Manuma said. “Real simple softball.”

Manuma got her base hit when she hit the ball hard past the shortstop and notched her 30th RBI of the season.

Tonight’s win marks BYU’s seventh walk-off victory of the season and improves their record to 33-13 overall. The Cougars will take the Spartans on again tomorrow at 1:30 and 3:30 at Miller Field to finish off the series.

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