Cougar Softball finished an important doubleheader against the San Jose Spartans at Gail Miller Field Saturday afternoon in a decisive series sweep.
The Cougars entered the game with a 33-13 record. After a 5-4 victory against San Jose the night before, BYU maintained a third place rank in the Western Athletic Conference, just one game ahead of the Spartans.
The Spartans started strong with a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Breanna Lopez hit a home run to right field. The Cougars responded with a bunt from senior Tiffany Messerschmidt for a single.
Senior Stacie Toney hit a double at the bottom of the fourth but was unable to take advantage of the hit before the third out, leaving the score at 2-2 heading into the fifth.
Senior Delaney Willard hit a double to right field during the fifth, allowing Messerschmidt to run home, and the Cougars gained a lead of 3-2.
Sophomore Tori Almond dominated defensively in the sixth inning with two walks and a strikeout, and Alexandra Hudson contributed by catching a grounder to prevent the Spartans from scoring, a trend which continued the rest of the game.
Almond pitched eight strikeouts and the Cougars gained their 34th win with a 3-2 final score against the Spartans in the first of the doubleheader games.
The second game started with Willard scoring a home run and adding two RBIs as she sent Messerschmidt and junior JC Clayton home as well. The umpire called sophomore Katie Manuma out, but the play was overturned and the game resumed.
San Jose responded with a home run from Breanna Lopez, but the rest of the line-up remained without runs, leaving the score at 3-1 after the second inning.
Senior Krista Hicks singled to left field for two RBIs, allowing Toney to advance and Willard and Clayton to score. The second inning finished with the Cougars ahead at 6-1.
Junior Hannah Howell took the mound at the sixth inning after two runs in the fourth and fifth, and the Cougars supported her defensively with a double-play, their third of the day.
Despite the Spartan’s attempt for a double-play in the bottom of the sixth, their try resulted in no outs. Hudson stepped up to the plate during the seventh inning with bases loaded and, even though a San Jose fielder caught her fly ball, Hudson added an RBI to end the game early with a win over the Spartans 10-2.
The Cougars successfully swept the weekend series and conquered Saturday’s doubleheader. Their 35-13 record gives their team an optimistic rank for the upcoming WAC tournament.
BYU Softball honored the five graduating seniors after the games. Jessica Dugas, Krista Hicks, Tiffany Messerschmidt and Stacie Toney have won three conference championships and have attended the NCAA tournament every year.
Jessica Dugas was third in the WAC in runs scored, sixth in hits and third in stolen bases. Her 3.29 batting average is within the top ten of all time BYU Softball.
Krista Hicks contributed to the team with 13 hits and 12 runs through her final season.
Tiffany Messershmidt is one of five BYU players ever to hit five triples in one game. Her 3.32 average is eighth overall in Cougar history.
Stacie Toney played for BYU for two years after playing for Salt Lake Community College and contributed to the team with 31 RBIs. She ran sixth in batting average on the team.
Delaney Willard focused on her hitting strength and is a finalist for the 2012 NCAA softball player of the year. Her RBI is the best of any player in WAC history, and she is on track to break the record before the season ends. Willard hit two grand slams this season, the second highest of anyone in BYU Softball.
The seniors and the rest of the Cougars look forward to finishing their final season.
“This is a tremendous group of seniors which have been instrumental in our success,” said coach Gordon Eakin. “Love these girls, love what they stand for. We got a lot of softball left to play,” he said.
Coach Eakins appreciates what the girls have done, but realizes that this moment comes with many emotions.
“It’s a bittersweet time. It signifies that we’re getting close to the end and getting close to moving on, but it also signifies that they’ve done a great job and now we’re just finishing strong,” he said. “I wish them well.”
Willard feels the same way as she looks back on her college career.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment and one of the best programs in the country,” she said. “The girls are amazing and I’m going to miss them. It’s going to be hard.”
The Cougars face Utah Valley University at home on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and again on Wednesday in Orem at 5 p.m.