An all-around team effort helped BYU hold Northwestern’s potent offense at bay on the way to a 7-2 victory on Thursday.
“It always feels good to win in the NCAA tournament,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “I would call that the consummate team win. Everybody contributed and we played all three aspects of the game: pitching, defense and hitting.”
Senior Katie Manuma, sophomore Gordy Bravo and freshman Lauren Bell each had two hits, a run and an RBI for the Cougars. Tori Almond (11-6) earned the victory going 4.2 innings with three strikeouts and allowed only two earned runs.
With the game scoreless in the fifth inning, senior Carly Duckworth singled on a bunt, freshman Sydney Broderick was hit by a pitch and Bell walked to load the bases. Bravo singled to center to bring in the game’s first run. Manuma followed with a blooper just over the glove of the shortstop to score another, and Ashley Thompson walked one in to make it 3-0 in favor of the Cougars. Mercedes O’Connor capped off the scoring with a double to left field extending BYU’s lead to 5-0 heading to the bottom of the frame.
After a scoreless first inning, Manuma led off the second inning with a double to right center for the first hit of the game. The Wildcats retired the next three batters to get out of the jam. Almond retired all three Northwestern batters in the bottom of the frame including two strikeouts.
In the third, Broderick reached on an error with two outs and stole second. A single by Bell moved her over to third, but Northwestern tracked down Bravo’s hit to left-center field to end the inning. The Wildcats got their first hit of the game in the bottom of the third with a blooper to center field that a diving Duckworth could not hold on to.
McKenzie St. Clair hit a two-out triple to left-center field in the fourth, but a pop-up to the first baseman left her stranded. St. Clair made an impressive defensive stop on the right hole and flipped the ball to first, and Duckworth made a diving catch in center to strand a runner at second in the bottom of the frame.
Northwestern put runners on the corners with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and leadoff hitter Emily Allard doubled to right center to cut the lead to 5-2. Ashlee Robinson made a leaping grab on a line drive down the third-base line to leave the runner stranded at third.
Robinson followed her spectacular defensive play with a double off the left-field wall to lead off the sixth. Broderick walked and both runners advanced on a passed ball. Bell singled through the left side to score Lacey Millett Hofstedt, who entered as a pinch runner for Robinson. Bravo then singled on a perfectly placed bunt to load the bases. A fielding error by the catcher on the next at-bat allowed Broderick to score and make it 7-2 in favor of the Cougars heading to the final six defensive outs.
McKenna Bull held the Wildcats scoreless in the final two innings and struck out two in the seventh including the last batter to seal the game and earn the save.
BYU returns to action Friday at 1 p.m. PST, to take on the winner of No. 12 Washington and Iona. Broadcast plans will be posted on BYU's website when they become available.
Spencer Shamo is a Communications major at BYU and the BYU softball SID.
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