PROVO – A Delaney Willard home run in the bottom of the seventh gave the BYU softball team (19-8, 3-0) its third win over New Mexico State (18-16, 0-3) this weekend to complete the sweep at Gail Miller Field.
The Cougars easily defeated the Aggies, 9-1, in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader. Game 2 was not won as easily, but with the score tied 3-3, Willard’s homer gave BYU the 6-3 victory.
"These wins were huge," said BYU head coach Gordon Eakin. "You always want to protect your home field and it's hard to beat any good team twice, so I'm really pleased with the effort of our team in every area. Pitching was great this weekend, defense was superb with the exception of the fifth inning Friday and we had timely hitting. We played a complete weekend against a real quality opponent so I'm really proud."
JC Clayton led the Cougars with three RBIs in Game 1, while Stacie Toney led the team in runs with three. In Game 2, Willard came up huge for BYU with two home runs and five RBIs. Hannah Howell and Tori Almond were the winning pitchers.
After an inning and a half scoreless, a sacrifice foul by Carly Duckworth brought Willard in for the score to give BYU its first run of the game. BYU's Jenna Goar hit a sacrifice fly ball to bring home Stacie Toney.
BYU found its groove in the fourth inning as the Cougars recorded six runs in the inning. In the bottom of the fourth with bases loaded and one out, pinch hitter Katie Manuma stepped up to the plate and hit a line drive to left field that scored Stacie Toney and Willard.
Later in the fourth, Jessica Dugas singled to short and recorded an RBI as Duckworth scored. Still, it was Clayton's triple that brought Cougar faithful to their feet as three BYU players scored on the play and the Cougars took an 8-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth, the Aggies scored to extend the game with the score 8-1. However, BYU was able to secure the victory off an error that gave the Cougars the 9-1 victory.
In Game 2, fans saw the first home run of the game as Staci Rodriguez belted a two-run homer over the fence to give NMSU its first lead of the weekend, 2-0. BYU made several impressive plays in the field to stop the Aggie run. The homers didn’t stop there for NMSU as Brittany Clifton hit a ball out of the park in the fourth to give the Aggies a 3-0 lead.
Willard answered with a two-run slam of her own in the bottom of the fourth to bring the Cougars within one. A Clayton single caused Messerschmidt to score and tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth.
Sophomore Ashlee Brawley made several key plays in the middle innings at the third, including a running throw to first. Brawley also connected for her first career hit at Miller Field earlier in the game.
Unfortunately for NMSU, Willard, who currently holds the nation’s second-best batting average, stepped up to bat with two on and one out in the bottom of the seventh. Her deep shot to center field brought in three runs and ensure the three-game sweep.
"I was just trying to get a good pitch and hit it hard into the outfield," Willard said of her big hit. "Because we really only needed one run but it went over, which was nice."
Dugas and Clayton each went 3-for-4 in the game with Clayton adding two runs scored.
The Cougars will stay home as they next face UMKC in a doubleheader on Mar. 27 beginning at 5 p.m. at Gail Miller Field. Both games will be televised live on BYUtv.
Morgan Jones is a soon-to-be graduate of Brigham Young University and intern with BYU Athletic Media Relations. EMAIL: [email protected]