With a combination of fast-paced plays and focused pitches, the BYU softball team is returning to Provo with a trophy and a memorable season after winning the WAC tournament in Las Cruces, N.M., on Saturday.
This was the first and only year BYU played in the WAC. They defeated No. 1-seeded Hawaii in the semifinals and No. 3-seeded Fresno State in the championship game to take home the victory.
“To come in as the new kid [in the WAC], you never know what you’re going to get,” Coach Gordon Eakin said. “You’re playing in new venues. You don’t know how you’re going to be accepted. And to win the conference championship, through the tournament, is nice for our program.”
Friday’s game against Hawaii resulted in a 6-4 win over the Rainbow Wahine. The Cougars put out their best offense early, scoring all six of their runs in the first inning.
Katie Manuma earned two RBIs with a single, sending Tiffany Messerschmidt and Jessica Dugas home. The next hit came with a bunt from Stacie Toney, putting another run on the board as JC Clayton scored. To cap it all off, Krista Hicks hit a home-run and sent the ball soaring to center field, sending the rest of her on-base teammates home.
The Cougars played aggressive defense against Hawaii as well. Dugas caught a deep hit from Hawaii’s Leisa Li’ili’i in time to throw it to catcher Shelbi Everett to get Jessica Iwata out at the last second on home plate.
The game ended in a 6-4 win by the Cougars. They headed into the tournament Saturday afternoon to face Fresno State.
The Bulldogs were seeded No. 3 in the tournament and came to the game with a 36-22 overall record. Fresno State’s pitcher Michelle Moses was recently named to the WAC All-Tournament Team. Even with these strengths, the Cougars conquered the team with an 8-3 victory.
Delaney Willard put BYU on the board in the first inning with a single. Messerschmidt, in her attempt to score off the run was tagged at home, but Dugas followed up and scored.
At the top of the third, Manuma hit a home run, advancing the score to 3-0. The fifth inning brought singles from Everett, Messerschmidt and Clayton. The score was 8-1 heading into the sixth.
The seventh inning came almost anti-climactically as both teams got their outs and the game ended with the Cougars on top. A victory like this comes as a result of a well-fought season.
“For the most part, we’ve been a pretty consistent team,” Eakin said. “When we get down, we don’t get down for long. We rebound quickly.”
The NCAA tournament will take place May 17-19. The Cougars will move onto the Pacific Coast Softball Conference next year after this season’s victorious WAC appearance.