After nine straight NCAA Softball Tournament appearances, the BYU softball team could be on the verge of breaking the streak and sitting home for the post season. With no conference tournament for the WCC, winning the regular season outright is the only way to make it 10 years in a row.
The Cougars knew before the season that their inexperience added to a tough schedule would make for an uphill battle, but not one of them could predict the great play against top 25 teams, and the meltdown losses against teams with low RPI. At this point in the year, there are only four seniors that are getting significant playing time. The lack of experience was never more obvious than early in the season as they continued to lose games they shouldn't have.
In a season that started with 28 games away from Provo, the Cougars are now sitting at 19-21 overall and 4-2 in conference. Early in the year BYU lost seven of ten but have come back with an impressive streak in winning eight of their last ten. If the Cougars can peak in conference, and steal the automatic tournament bid, they could cause damage as they have shown that they can play with anyone. Sitting atop the WCC standings with Saint Mary's, the Cougars season is far from over. With the hope of more highlights to come this year, lets take a look at a few from the non-conference games earlier in the year.
BYU beats #2 Tennessee
Facing the number two team in the country looked like a daunting task for the 6-9 Cougars but they didn't show any fear against a team that started the season 14-0. BYU showed up early as Katie Manuma drove in the first three runs of the game with a shot over the wall in left-center. The Volunteers cut the lead to one as they scored two in the bottom of the first and then tied the game in the third. With defense and pitching the teams went into the last inning still tied at 3 but the Cougars would make sure extra innings wouldn't happen. BYU would take the lead at 4-3 after a McKenzie St. Clair homered to left-center which was followed up with another homer by Manuma, this time to left. A wild pitch with bases loaded led to the final run of the game and three batters in the bottom of the inning led to three outs and a 6-3 Cougar win.
BYU beats #2 Oregon
Again facing a second ranked team in the country, the Cougars were looking to provide another upset, this time in front of their home crowd. BYU did all their damage in the second inning as a double, a single, and a fielding error gave the Cougars their first run of the game and loading the bases. A walked batter later, the Cougars held onto a 2-0 lead. Lacey Millett Hofstedt had the at bat of the day as she came to the plate with bases loaded and twice faked bunt. Instead of bunting, she lined the next pitch over the right fielders head as she cleared the bases and made her first extra base hit an inside the park grand slam. With a 6-0 lead after two the Cougars had a bit of a cushion, and it was needed. After scoring one run in the third the Ducks went into the seventh down 6-1 but were determined to come back. In the seventh Oregon hit a three-run homer and then a solo shot before the Cougars were able to close out the game and win 6-5.
BYU pitchers throw a no-hitter against Utah Valley
Three pitchers combined to throw the 16th no-hitter in BYU history. Tori Almond, McKenna Bull, and Ashley Thompson combined for six strikeouts while allowing no hits. In a game that included St. Clair stealing home plate, and one walk preventing the Cougars from a perfect game, the Cougars beat the Wolverines 9-0 on their home field.
Final 15 games
It is yet to be seen what the final 15 games have in store for the Cougars but nine of them can be seen online at www.thew.tv or www.byutv.org. Five of the games can even be seen on BYUtv. 11 of the games will be home games so there will be plenty of opportunities for fans to support the Cougars and a complete schedule can be found here.