The BYU-Utah rivalry found its way into the NCAA softball tournament on Friday afternoon in Salt Lake City. In a tightly contested game, Utah rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to secure the walk-off victory and a spot in the Regional Final.
The first game of the NCAA tournament saw BYU softball play a flawless game. The second game wasn’t as easy going.
BYU took an early lead in the top of the 2nd inning when Alexa Strid drove home Ashley Thompson. Utah countered in the bottom of the frame when a Bridget Castro RBI double scored Anissa Urtez.
From there, the pitching of both squads found a way to keep runs off the scoreboard, thanks to a series of clutch, fortunate fielding plays.
Utah was able to escape bases loaded with 1 out in both the 3rd and 5th unscathed.
In the 3rd, an Ashley Thompson liner to 1st was caught by Utah’s Bridget Castro who quickly stomped on first base for an unassisted double play to end the threat.
In the 5th, BYU’s bases loaded with 1 out chance started out well before it went by the wayside when Ashley Thompson singled through the left side scoring Lauren Bell to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
Following the run, Caitlyn Larsen Alldredge struck out. Alldredge, the WCC Player of the Year had a tough outing at the plate on Friday going 0-for-4. Following the strikeout, Alexa Strid flied out to left to end the BYU scoring opportunity.
The Cougars stranded 11 runners to the Utes 3 left on base.
BYU would get out of a mini-jam in the bottom of the 6th inning on the strength of an Ashley Thompson double play that mimicked Utah’s double play in the 3rd.
In the bottom of the 7th, Utah finally solved Cougar ace McKenna Bull. Ute 1st baseman Bridget Castro had a lead off single. 3B Heather Bowen would hit a double down the left field line scoring Castro from 1st to tie the game. Finally, Utah pinch hitter Hailey Hilburn hit the walkoff RBI single to center to advance Utah in the Regional Final with a 3-2 victory over the Cougars.
After the heartbreaker, the road forward for BYU softball just got a lot harder. The Cougars will play in a game this evening around 6 PM against the winner of the Mississippi State and Fordham game that is being played right now.
BYU defeated Mississippi State yesterday via mercy rule in the 6th inning, 8-0. While Fordham lost by mercy rule 10-0 in the 5th inning against Utah.
Should the Cougars win this evening, they would need to defeat Utah twice on Saturday on the Utes home field. Coach Eakin’s squad will need to regroup quickly if BYU want to advance to Super Regionals.