Cougar softball buckles under NCAA tournament pressure

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BYU softball went home after a short-lived three-game series in the NCAA Tournament in Seattle. The team won its first game on May 15 against Northwestern (7-2), lost its second game on May 16 against No. 12 seed Washington (9-0) and lost its third game that same night against Northwestern (8-3).

The Cougars were eliminated from the NCAA regional tournament on May 16 when Northwestern overcame an early 3-1 deficit after the first inning. In the fourth inning the Cougars had their best opportunity to erase the three run lead of Northwestern. Ashley Robinson singled, and then a double by Sydney Broderick put two runners on with no outs. However, three straight outs by the Cougars failed to score any runs and left the two runners stranded on base.

McKenna Bull winds up to bring a pitch home. Photo by Ari Davis
McKenna Bull winds up to bring a pitch home. (Photo by Ari Davis)

“We never recovered from the Washington game,” said BYU head coach Gordon Eakin. “Northwestern’s a great team, but we didn’t rebound and didn’t play at near the level we are capable of playing.”

Northwestern seemed to find an offensive rhythm as it faced BYU for the second time in two days. The Wildcats scored eight runs on 14 hits against BYU pitcher McKenna Bull and Tori Almond.

The games in Seattle were part of a double elimination tournament among four teams vying for one spot in the super regional round of the NCAA regional tournament.

The first game was won with strong defense by the Cougars, who kept Northwestern off the scoreboard until the fifth inning, when they allowed the only two runs of the game. Northwestern’s two runs were not enough to catch the Cougars who scored five runs in the fifth inning.

However BYU was not so lucky during their second tournament game against Washington. The Cougars gave up four runs to Washington in the first inning and did not threaten a comeback for the rest of the game. Strong pitching that Washington brought to the game kept the Cougars from scoring and allowed only two hits by BYU.

The three-game tournament appearance concluded an otherwise stellar season for the Cougars. This season marked the sixth consecutive conference title. The Cougars will lose five seniors as they go into the offseason, but the future remains promising as two star freshmen, McKenzie St. Clair and McKenna Bull will return for the Cougars next season.

“Our future is bright,” Eakin said. “We talked with those returning about not liking this feeling and using it as motivation in the offseason.”

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