Strong offense helped propel BYU softball to a pair of wins, 3-2 and 8-0, against Loyola Marymount at Gail Miller Field on Saturday afternoon to win the West Coast Conference title.
The wins give the Cougars (35-20, 13-1 WCC) their 10th-straight conference title (fifth in the WCC) and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. With the upcoming games, BYU will have competed in 14-consecutive NCAA tournaments.
“All our championships are hard-earned,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “I've never been involved in one that's been easy. I thought we prepared really well this week for LMU. We remained calm – even in the first game when we were down.”
The Cougars came back to win the first game in the seventh inning, narrowly edging the Lions (28-23-1, 11-3 WCC) by one.
In the second game, BYU outhit LMU, nine to five, in six innings, due to the NCAA eight-run rule.
Rylee Jensen went 2-for-3 in both games while scoring three runs. Erin Miklus came into the second game and collected two runs on two hits. Alexa Strid, Madison Merrell and Bridget Fleener each smashed home runs in the two games.
Kerisa Viramontes and Autumn Moffat each pitched complete games in the series win, recording four and five strikeouts, respectively.
After a scoreless first inning, the Lions struck first with a two-run shot just over the fence in the right field corner from Alicia Brown to give Loyola Marymount a 2-0 lead.
However, the Cougars answered back in the bottom of the second with a run of their own. Strid led off the inning with a single past the shortstop and advanced to second after Merrell grounded out in the following at-bat. Caitlyn Alldredge brought in BYU's first run of the game after she singled to center field to send Strid home and cut the lead to one.
Viramontes went three up, three down in the top of the sixth to keep the Lions at bay.
In the bottom of the frame, the Cougar bats came alive to balance their strong defensive play. Strid took the first pitch from LMU's Hannah Bandimere and rocketed a solo shot over center field to tie the game at 2-2. Merrell then sent a homer of her own to left field, giving the Cougars a 3-2 advatange.
With two outs in the final inning, Alldredge ended the game with an incredible diving catch into her own dugout, robbing a popped-up foul ball.
The Cougars cruised to an 8-0 win in the second game in six innings.
BYU carried its strong momentum to the second game, taking advantage of two Lions errors early on. Jensen walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch before Briielle Breland walked. Lexi Tarrow reached base on the first error as Jensen came home for a 1-0 lead. Libby Sugg then singled to left field, allowing Breland to score. Another Loyola Marymount error brought Tarrow home as the Cougars ended the first inning up 3-0.
With a runner in scoring position at second base in the second frame, the Lions’ Shianne Ybarra singled to left field. A quick throw from Jensen in left field to Sugg at home got Ybarra out, ending the top of the inning and preventing a would-be run.
Strid nearly hit a homer left field in the third, allowing Sugg to score on the sacrifice fly for a 4-0 advantage.
Jensen doubled to right center with two outs in the bottom of the fourth before Miklus hit a double to left field, bring her in.
In the fifth, Fleener crushed her fourth home run of the season to right center to make it 6-0.
Jensen walked in the sixth and then scored as Miklus sent her second double of the game to left field. A Sugg single to left field scored Miklus for the final run of the game.
The Cougars next await their fate in the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday, May 13, at 10 p.m. EDT. The show will be televised live on ESPN2.
Royce Hinton is the men's and women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.