I'm super lucky that my team was definitely on point today with their defense. They definitely made my job a lot easier. —BYU pitcher McKenna Bull
SALT LAKE CITY — Thursday's unseasonably cold weather may not have been for most, but for BYU's McKenna Bull, she felt right at home.
The Cougars' star pitched a clinic during her team's 8-0 win over Mississippi State in the first round of NCAA regional action — allowing just one hit over six innings.
"I grew up in this weather, so I'm quite used to it," Bull, who prepped at Weber High School in Odgen, said. "Playing in this weather all the time has let me get to this point."
Bull didn't allow hit until the top of the fourth and was very much the main talking point of Mississippi State coach Vann Stuedeman.
"McKenna Bull really shut us down, hit her spots well, and was in control from pitch one," Stuedeman said.
Pitching a one-hit shutout isn't all that out of the norm for Bull, although doing it with just one strikeout is. The star senior averaged a little more than one strikeout per inning during the regular season, yet depended a lot on those behind her to make plays against the Bulldogs.
Standing out amongst the defensive plays made was a brilliant diving catch by center fielder Brooke Vander Heide, along with some nifty fielding by shortstop Alexa Strid and Lauren Bell.
"I'm super lucky that my team was definitely on point today with their defense," Bull said. "They definitely made my job a lot easier."
"That catch in center field should be the ESPN number one catch today," added BYU coach Gordon Eakin. "That was a tremendous catch."
Bull also made it easy on herself — serving up pitches with a lot of velocity and spin which disallowed a lot of solid contact and otherwise confounded the Bulldog batters.
Stuedeman pointed out a ball hit by one her players that managed to start off foul and then end up fair, due to the spin Bull was able to create.
"That's spinning. The ball is spinning...you don't see that very often," Stuedeman said.
The Cougars also executed well from the plate — combining for 13 hits and eight runs in just six innings played. Leading the way was Lexi Tarrow, who contributed a double and a triple and some aggressive baserunning.
Nine different Cougar batters had hits, with Tarrow leading the way with three on the afternoon.
"I thought we came out with confidence at the plate, where we were selective and made (Mississippi State state pitcher Alexis Silkwood) come into the zone with her pitches," Eakin said. "So that's exactly what we wanted, based on our game plan.
The Cougars started to get things rolling in the second inning, scoring two runs which was started by Strid's home run over the left field fence. Three more runs were added in the third and then another in the fourth, as the Cougars built a sizeable 6-0 lead.
Ending the game was Briielle Breland, who knocked through an RBI single to bring home Ashley Thompson in the bottom of the sixth.
"We played well today," Eakin summed up. "That's the way this team is capable of playing. We pitched well, we defended well and we got timely hits. We're capable of doing that and the key is to continue to do that."