The BYU softball team picked up two wins this weekend in the Red Desert Classic at the Canyons Complex in St. George. The team beat Seattle and Idaho State but lost to Colorado State, Nevada and No. 6 Tennessee.
“Our record doesn’t show that we did well,” junior pitcher Tori Almond said. “But overall I think it was a successful weekend for us. We made a lot of improvements and learned a lot as a new team.”
The series started with a 4-1 loss on Thursday against Colorado State, who got ahead early and left the lady Cougars to play catch-up the rest of the game. The women had only four hits in the game and left seven runners stranded on base. Carly Duckworth scored the Cougars’ only run with a line drive hit to third base from Madisen Robb.
Pitcher Hannah Howell started the tourney on the mound, giving up only four hits and two earned runs in six innings. Almond cleaned up in the seventh inning and earned two strikeouts for the day.
The Cougars won one and lost one in day two of the tournament. In Friday’s first game BYU’s offense showed up ready to swing with a 10-0 win against Seattle.
Almond rocked the mound in the Cougars’ first win against the Redhawks. She allowed no earned runs and threw a career-high 13 strikeouts in seven innings. Almond said she was excited to show what the pitching staff has been working on the last three months.
“I went into the tournament with the mindset that I had prepared myself and I wanted to come out and show that,” Almond said.
On the offensive, Katie Manuma had a two-run homerun, her first of the season, to left-center field in the top of the sixth. BYU lit up the Redhawks’ pitcher in the seventh inning and scored six straight runs on hits by Robb, Coryn Tauali’i, JC Clayton, Jenna Goar, Mylee Davis and Ashlee Robinson.
But their bats were not up to the team standard, according to their shortstop.
“We lacked a little bit of hitting, and more reps will need to be taken at practice to get our bats moving,” Clayton said.
BYU was not as successful against Nevada and lost 14-6. Nevada came in hot in the first game of the tournament and scored seven runs in only the first four innings.
Howell started and closed (relieving Almond) and threw a total of four and a half innings with only three earned runs and seven strikeouts.
The third and final day was bittersweet for the Cougars with another loss and a win.
Saturday started off with a 6-3 loss against No. 6 Tennessee who came into the game with a 4-0 tournament record. BYU gave up six runs in the first five innings, three of which were in the top of the first inning.
The Cougar defense tightened up to hold Tennessee scoreless until the seventh. This included an impressive diving play from Robb in the sixth inning. Almond threw six innings and added another five strikeouts to her totals for the season.
Robb then led the seventh inning rally with a single to right field. The Cougars forced two Tennessee pitching changes in the last inning and took advantage of what they could. Alexandra Shamo and Robinson each drew a walk to pack the bases, and Clayton and Lacey Millet each had a RBI. Unfortunately for the lady Cougars, their three runs were not able to stop Tennessee.
In its last game of the tournament, BYU won 7-4 against Idaho State.
The lady Cougars had a team total of 14 hits against Idaho State. Freshman Marissa Bravo led the team with four hits in four at bats and 2 RBIs in the game. Clayton grabbed three hits and two RBIs herself against the Bengals. Goar had the game-winning two-run RBI after a hit to left field, putting the Cougars on top in the sixth.
It was Caroline Umphlett who made her second appearance in the tournament to pick up her first win of the season. Umphlett relieved Howell in the fifth to stop Idaho from scoring any runs and only give up two hits.
The team is frustrated with its losses, but Clayton said the losses fueled the lady Cougars’ fire and got them moving against both Tennessee and Idaho.
“We realized that we can’t look past anybody,” Clayton said. “We have to go out there and play softball hard against every team and not just rise to the occasion for good teams.”
This tournament was the first for BYU this season. Despite its first tournament record, the tournament allowed the team to make the necessary adjustments and find strengths as a new team that will help them in the rest of their season.
“I think our team strength is that we battle,” Almond said. “We came from behind many times, even when we were down 6-0 in the seventh inning, and we scored 3 runs. It’s internal motivation, we’re playing for pride.”
BYU will head south again this weekend, Feb. 14–16, in Las Vegas for the Easton Desert Classic, where it will play Hawaii, Oregon State, Louisiana Monroe, Cal State Fullerton and Portland State.