BYU softball wins four of five in Las Vegas tournament

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Ari Davis
McKenzie St. Clair takes a swing for the Cougars. St. Clair has the team-high batting average of .438 so far this season. (Ari Davis)

The BYU softball team had a perfect record at Wilson/DeMarini Desert Classic tournament against the University of Hawaii (5-4), Northwestern (5-1), UNLV (6-5) and UTEP (9-0) until it lost the final game of the weekend to Cal State Fullerton (11-0)

BYU started off by beating the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine in game one of the tournament on Thursday. A slow Cougar start allowed Hawaii to take a 3-1 lead at the end of the fourth inning. The Cougars reversed the momentum in the second half with some opportunistic hitting. A McKenzie St. Clair single in the bottom of the sixth was mishandled by Hawaii, and the error allowed Sydney Broderick and Mercedes O’Connor to score and tie the game 3-3. The Rainbow Wahine scored another run in the top of the seventh, but a sacrifice bunt from Lauren Bell allowed Lacey Hofstedt and Gordy Bravo to advance to second and third base. Ashley Thompson’s RBI tied the score 4-4, and O’Connor finished the game with a walk-off hit to bring Bravo home.

“We need to be more consistent and not start out so slow,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “I’m proud of them for hanging with it and beating a quality team in Hawaii.”

Day two brought even more success for the Cougars, with wins over the Northwestern Wildcats and UNLV Rebels. The first game remained 0-0 through five innings, but the Wildcats struck in the top of the sixth for a 1-0 lead. BYU took off in the bottom half of the inning and scored five runs in six hits, thanks to RBIs from O’Connor, Broderick and St.Clair. Northwestern never recovered, and the Cougars won 5-1.

BYU’s consistent offense in the next game against UNLV helped them take the lead early and maintain it through all seven innings. The Cougars were up 6-1 after the top of the sixth inning, but the Rebels put up a fight and quickly scored four runs. BYU’s defense was the star of the seventh inning, cemented first with a diving catch from Thompson in the infield that turned into a double play. The Cougars finished UNLV when pitcher McKenna Bull deflected a Rebel hit to second-baseman Bell, who was able to handle it and make the out at first.

“In the Northwestern game we just gutted it up and outlasted them and made the plays at the end of the game to win,” Eakin said. “Against UNLV, it was a complete defensive effort that won that game. I’m very impressed with out defense.”

Bull shone by delivering a shutout in the Cougars’ game against the UTEP Miners. She allowed only one hit in the five-inning game, and BYU’s offense dominated. Alexa Strid, Bravo, Bell and O’Connor all made RBIs in the second inning to take a 5-0 lead. Strid hit an RBI again in the third, followed by a double from Bell that brought three runs in for a 9-0 lead. The Cougars held off the Miners in the next half-inning to end the game after five on the mercy rule.

BYU fell apart in the last game of the tournament, losing 11-0 to the Cal State Fullerton Titans. The Titans earned eight runs in the bottom of the first, then two more in the third and a final run in the fourth. BYU battled in the top of the fifth and got two runners on base but couldn’t finish to extend the game, losing in just five innings.

“It was a good tournament for us and a good weekend,” Eakin said. “It’s not easy to go 4-1, so I’m proud of them for their effort.”

BYU softball’s record improves to 6-4 following the tournament. The team will travel again next week for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic tournament in Cathedral City, California.

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