PROVO, Utah — The Cougars dropped a 9-3 decision to the University of Houston during game one of the doubleheader followed by a close 3-2 loss in game two at Gail Miller Field on Saturday.
The Cougars (14-18, 4-0 PCSC) had to play catch-up in both games, coming from behind, but were unable to cap a comeback. Houston (22-10) displayed strong pitching on the day to seal the three-game sweep.
“What we need to do is be more consistent on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively,” BYU assistant coach Vaughn Alvey said. “We get behind in counts early in games and give up runs early in games. It takes the air out of everybody’s sails. We need to score early and keep them from scoring early.”
Despite keeping the score within striking distance for the majority of the game, BYU (14-17) couldn’t overcome a five-run Houston (21-10) seventh inning in the 9-3 loss.
The Cougar pitching staff struggled during the first game with Tori Almond, Katie Manuma and Hannah Howell finding time on the mound. Almond dropped to 5-4 on the season, recording the loss for the Cougars.
Houston pitcher Diedre Outon (3-3) had a solid performance during the opening game, pitching a complete game and giving up three runs. BYU finished with three runs on nine hits, while Houston scored nine runs on 10 hits for the victory.
Houston got off to a hot start during the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader, getting on board in the first inning. Center fielder Haley Outon hit a line drive two-run home run over the center field wall to put the Scarlet Cougars up 2-0.
Houston’s Julia Pecina got on base in the top of the second with a long double over Carly Duckworth’s head. With the bases loaded and two outs, outfielder Reina Gaber squeezed a single into right field to drive in two runs, upping Houston’s lead to 4-0.
The Cougars came close to narrowing Houston’s four-run lead, loading the bases in the bottom of the second and third innings. In the second, Anna Hudson hit into a double play to end the inning, and pitcher Diedre Outon struck out Bailie Hicken to end the third and hold the 4-0 Houston advantage.
BYU’s defense kept the Houston offense off the board in the fourth and fifth innings with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Marissa Bravo got on base for the Cougars with a single into left field. Manuma then singled up the middle to advance Bravo into scoring position before Alexandra Hudson Shamo hit a single into the left-field gap to bring in the team's first run of the game.
The Cougars left Lacey Millett stranded in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth, before Houston caught fire with the bats in the top of the seventh inning. Houston added five insurance runs on five hits to up their lead to 9-1.
Looking to rally in the bottom of the seventh, pinch hitter Jenna Goar singled to shortstop. The Cougars next batter, pinch hitter Megan Arnold, hit a bouncing ball to shortstop to beat out the throw to first. Hicken advanced to first with one out after being hit by Outon from the mound.
BYU’s next batter Tauali’I reached base on a fielder’s choice, driving in Goar to narrow the Houston gap to 9-2. The Cougars scored another run but came up short losing the first game of the doubleheader 9-3.
Never trailing by more than one run, the Cougars couldn't complete the comeback and dropped a 3-2 decision.
Howell recorded the loss for the Cougars to fall to 5-12 on the season. JC Clayton had a solid game from the plate, hitting 3-for-4 and scoring two runs. Third baseman Ashlee Brawley Robinson had a strong defensive effort, finishing the game with six assists.
Houston got on the board first during game two of the doubleheader. With runners on the corners, Houston baited catcher Anna Hudson into throwing to second to get the runner and in turn brought in the Scarlet Cougars' first run from third base.
BYU held Houston scoreless during the second and third innings, fueled by strong defense and pitching from Duckworth. In the bottom of the third, Clayton hit a hard single near second base and beat out the throw to reach first safely. Millett advanced Clayton to second laying down a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Shamo hit a single over the head of third baseman to drive in Clayton and tie the game at one apiece through three.
Houston battled back, retaking the lead in the top of the fourth. With a runner on second base, first baseman Jaime Edwards singled to right field, driving in a run. Duckworth got out of the inning with a timely strikeout. The advantage remained in favor of Houston 2-1 after four innings of play.
Howell substituted in relief of Duckworth in the top of the fifth inning, getting out of the inning with no damage done. BYU tied the score in the bottom of the fifth at two apiece when Manuma drove home Clayton from third with a hard single between the third baseman and shortstop.
In the top of the sixth, Houston regained the lead at 3-2. BYU tried to answer but instead left Duckworth stranded at third in the bottom of the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, BYU got out of a jam with Houston leaving two runners in scoring position. Going into the bottom of the seventh trailing by one, Millett reached base on a fielding error with one out. Bravo singled up the middle, and Shamo walked with two outs to load the bases. Duckworth then hit a pop fly to right field to finish the game and allow Houston to leave with the three-game sweep.
The Cougars return to action and conference play at Utah Valley University on April 5 with a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. MDT.
Chris Scheitinger is a student at Brigham Young University studying Public Relations. Contact him at email@example.com