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BYU softball: Cougars blast UCSB, fall in extras to Maryland

A grand slam by junior Coco Tauali'i helped BYU softball to a day one split at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, California, on Thursday.

The third baseman Tauali'i helped the Cougars (7-5) break open a 5-4 lead over UC Santa Barbara (3-8), eventually taking the game in dominating fashion, 16-4. BYU then fell to Maryland (7-5) in a 2-1 extra-inning heartbreaker.

"We had a nice outing where we put all three parts of the game together," BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. "McKenna Bull did a nice job pitching in relief, offensively we excelled with timely hits, and defensively we played well."

The Cougars did not commit an error in the game against UCSB, while the second game featured strong pitching performances. Bull went the distance, throwing a career-best 8.2 innings while striking out 14 to tie her career high set last season against Valaparaiso. All in all, the sophomore threw 12.1 innings, striking out 16 while not allowing any earned runs as opposing batters hit only .140 against her on the day.

"Maryland's pitcher did a nice job," Eakin said. "We had our chances, but just did not get the timely hits we needed. It was a well-played game by both teams."

Junior Gordy Bravo led all BYU players with a 4-for-9 day at the plate and a stolen base. Tauali’i and senior Lacey Hofstedt each went 3-for-7 while Tauali’i led the team with four RBIs on the day. Shortstop Lauren Bell had three RBIs on 2-for-4 hitting, including a triple.

Game one

Right out of the gate, BYU rattled off three runs in the top of the first. Bravo singled and advanced to third on illegal pitches. She then scored on a hit by Bell, who also advanced to third on a throwing error. Sophomore Ashley Thompson walked and eventually scored on an illegal pitch.

The Gauchos attempted to make their case, registering their first run with no outs. The first batter singled to short and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Arianna Palomares then connected for a double off Bull, cutting the lead to 3-1. Brodercik, however, gunned Palomares out at second on a pick-off to get BYU out of the inning.

In the third inning the Cougars added another to the board on a sacrifice fly RBI by McKenzie St. Clair, scoring Mercedes O'Connor, but UCSB would actually knot the game in the bottom half of the inning. A two-out RBI single followed by a two-run homer tied the game at 4-4 heading into the fourth.

Both teams would hold each other at bay until BYU cashed in with five in the top of the sixth to break the tie, 9-4. First, Thompson advanced to first on a fielder's choice, scoring Bell who was on third. Sydney Broderick then reached on a fielder's choice followed by St. Clair's hit by pitch, loading the bases to set up Tauali'i. The Torrance, California, native took a 1-0 pitch over the center field fence for her first-career grand slam and first home run of the season.

The Cougars bolstered their advantage in the top of the sixth with a Thompson RBI single to score Bell, making the score 10-4.

After shutting down UCSB in the bottom of the sixth, BYU exploded for six more runs on a seven-hit flurry in the seventh. The frenzy began with freshman Caitlyn Larsen's first RBI of the season, scoring Ashley Godfrey. Bravo, the next batter at the top of the order, hit a sacrifice fly to left center, scoring Tauali'i for the second run of the frame. With runners on second and third, Bell cracked a triple to center field, cashing in two more RBIs. O'Connor kept the spree going with an RBI single of her own. The Cougars scored their last run of the inning after a Gaucho error, increasing their lead to 16-4.

BYU then ended the game without allowing a run in the bottom of the seventh with a runner in scoring position.

Game two

BYU scored in the top of the first, advancing the runners in textbook fashion. Bravo singled to left and moved to second on a Bell bunt single. Both runners stole a base, advancing to second and third. O’Connor then came to the plate, coming through with a sacrifice fly to score Bravo.

Maryland knotted the game in the bottom of the first. The second and third batters reached base on a hit by pitch and a walk, respectively. The fourth Terrapin reached on a fielder’s choice, but all runners were safe on a Cougar error, setting up a one-out RBI for the unearned run.

The game was deadlocked in a 1-1 tie with strong pitching and not enough hitting. Maryland left 11 runners on base while BYU left 14.

The Cougars threatened in the fourth inning as they began with St. Clair reaching base on an error followed by a Tauali’i base hit to center field. Freshman Alexa Strid’s sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third before Hofstedt’s bunt up the middle created a bases-loaded one-out situation. The Terps got the second out with a force at home before escaping by getting a strikeout to end the threat.

Bull struck out two of the three batters in the bottom of the fourth while the other batter was called out, leaving early from first.

The sophomore pitcher struck out at least two batters from the third through the seventh inning, dampening Maryland’s offense, while BYU saw similar fortunes facing Terrapin pitcher Kaitlyn Schmeiser, who struck out five and allowed only four hits in 5.2 innings.

In the eighth inning and adhering to the International tiebreaker rule, the Cougars advanced a runner to third before fouling out and popping up to end the top of the frame. BYU got in a jam after the Maryland runner placed at second to start the inning advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Bull then intentionally walked the next hitter to put runners on the corners before getting a groundout to the shortstop for the first out with runners on second and third. Bull then got the next two out on a pop up to second and a strikeout swinging.

BYU then threatened with runners of its own on the corners as Hofstedt singled up the left-field line before stealing second. Bravo then got a base hit to third, juicing the bases with no outs. An inability to captitalize at the plate saw the next three batters go down.

With two outs and two on in the bottom of the ninth, Maryland's Lindsey Schmeiser hit a walk-off single to left center for the 2-1 final outcome.

The Cougars face Texas A&M in the early time slot Friday at 10 a.m. PST. The game will be broadcast online by 1150 AM The Zone.

McKay Perry is the sports information director for BYU softball and an assistant sports information director for BYU football. Contact him at softball_sid@byu.edu