BYU softball fell 3-1 in its opening NCAA tournament matchup against No. 13 and Stillwater Regional host Oklahoma State on Thursday, May 16, but won the important do-or-die game against No. 20 Arkansas on May 17. In what would be the team’s final game of the season, BYU fell 6-4 to Tulsa.
“We had a lot of momentum in that game and we really fought in that game, so there’s nothing to hang our heads about,” BYU outfielder Rylee Jensen said after game one. “We gave it our all. If we just cut out those first couple innings it’s a much closer ballgame.”
Pitcher Arissa Paulson and the BYU defense held Oklahoma State to just two hits in the final four innings, but the Cougars failed to produce enough on the offensive side. Cowgirl pitcher Samantha Show held BYU to just three hits throughout the night and walked only two batters. Show produced from the plate as well, contributing a run in the first inning off an RBI double.
The Cougars did manage to break through with a run in the top of the sixth after Libby Sugg sent in Rylee Jensen on an RBI single. Sugg finished the game with two of the Cougars’ three hits, with the other coming from West Coast Conference Player of the Year Lexi Tarrow in the top of the fifth.
“I don’t think they were expecting us to come out so strong,” Sugg said. “It was a pretty close game and was pretty intense all the way through. It’s just a matter of stringing hits and scoring those runs when the runners are on, but other than that we were right there with them.”
Sugg, who is playing in her fourth consecutive NCAA tournament for BYU, said she was excited to get back to the postseason, although there were some added nerves before their first game.
“I know some of the younger players on our team who haven’t been to the postseason yet were a little bit nervous,” Sugg said. “But it honestly just makes me excited knowing we’re back to playing some really good teams.”
In their second game of the Stillwater regional, the Cougars took down No. 20 Arkansas 6-3, eliminating them from the tournament.
Cougs keep on fighting!
We will now face Tulsa to determine who faces OSU tomorrow.#BYUsoftball | #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/WnGMGWXSk9
— BYU Softball (@byusoftball) May 17, 2019
Pitcher Autumn Moffat started strong with a strikeout after being down 3-0 in the count, but allowed the second batter to reach first base on an error she made while throwing the ball to the first baseman. Moffat would force Arkansas senior Ashley Diaz into an inning-ending double play even though Moffat allowed the base runner to reach first.
The Cougars reached the bases early, unlike their first game against Oklahoma. Sophomore Erin Miklus, batting second in the order, reached first base on a single that hugged the third base line. BYU’s next batter, Taylei Williams, took her base after being hit by a pitch. The next batter, Ari Paulson, hit a two-RBI single into left field to give BYU a 2-0 lead heading into the second inning. Six BYU players would enter the batter’s box in the first inning.
The two pitchers traded 1-2-3 innings in the second while Moffat also had a three-up-three-down inning in the third, but BYU junior Rylee Jensen broke this pattern by hitting a leadoff home run in the third inning, increasing the Cougars’ lead to 3-0. A pair of errors by the Razorbacks’ infielders helped BYU extend their lead to 5-0 before the end of the third. Arkansas is known for making errors throughout the regular season, committing 84 errors as compared to their opponents 46. Arkansas committed eight total errors in the regionals alone.
Moffat continued her dominance on the mound for BYU into the fourth inning, once again halting any early glimpses of hope for Arkansas by retiring all three batters in order. This trend, however, wouldn’t last through the fifth as the Razorbacks finally broke the Cougars’ pitcher with a three-run home run off the bat of Haydi Bugarin. Another inning-ending double play would stop the bleeding for the Cougars who still held onto a 5-3 lead.
Another error by the Arkansas infield allowed the leadoff batter to take her base to start the bottom of the fifth, but BYU finished the inning without adding any more runs. Arkansas returned the favor by not adding any runs of their own in the sixth while BYU extended its league in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a second Rylee Jensen bomb over the outfield fence.
Jensen showed her fielding heroics with a diving catch off a line drive to get the first out of the final frame. After allowing a single, BYU’s defense recorded back-to-back outs to win the do-or-die game 6-3.
The Cougars avoided elimination with the win. After a 30-minute breather, BYU faced the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in another win-or-go-home situation.
Like they did against No. 20 Arkansas, BYU struck first thanks to a Libby Sugg single. BYU’s bats would take a momentary rest after a Tulsa would turn a double play to end the inning.
It didn’t take the Golden Hurricane long to get their first runs of the game, earning two early runs off a double by Chenise Delce. The Golden Hurricane loaded the bases twice in the opening frame but only tallied the pair of runs as Arissa Paulson left the mound relatively unscathed for BYU.
BYU hit a hurdle when they couldn’t advance their runners, starting two of the next three innings with a leadoff runner on first. Tulsa taught BYU a lesson on how to advance runners in the fourth inning when their leadoff batter hit a single and eventually came around to score an insurance run for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa would add more insurance before the inning was over, taking a 5-1 lead into the fifth.
The Cougars received a little luck in the fifth inning as a routine fly ball went off the glove of a Tulsa outfielder allowing Rylee Jensen to get to second base. Erin Miklus hit an RBI single to cut the lead to three before the inning was over.
BYU pitcher Autumn Moffat came into the game to relieve Paulson in the fifth inning, coming off an 85-pitch complete game against Arkansas earlier in the day.
BYU’s best chance to take this game came in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Erin Miklus walked and BYU was within two as Marissa Chavez came home to score, leaving the bases still loaded for Libby Sugg. A clean pitch got away from the Tulsa catcher while Sugg was at bat, cutting the Golden Hurricane lead in half. Sugg eventually grounded out to third but not before the Cougars chipped into the Tulsa lead, trailing just 5-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Moffat got herself into a jam in the bottom of the sixth as she loaded the bases for Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane scored another run thanks to a bases-loaded walk, taking a 6-4. Moffat eventually got out of the inning while only allowing the single run, though she wasn’t getting some of her pitches called strikes.
BYU threatened in the seventh with runners on first and second after a single by Moffat and a walk by Tarrow. On their last out, Chavez made good contact with a pitch that went off the leg of Tulsa third baseman Alexis Perry. Perry was able to gather the loose ball and make third base and the final out.
BYU ended their 2019 season with an overall record of 30-26, an NCAA regional win and another WCC championship.