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Pitching, Fleener lead BYU softball team to rivalry-win over Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Led by excellent pitching from Kerisa Viramontes and Autumn Moffat and a 3-RBI night from Bridget Fleener, the BYU Cougars' softball team defeated Utah 5-2 on Wednesday night at Dumke Stadium.

“Freshman and a sophomore on the mound, that’s pretty young, and they definitely came through. Kerisa did a nice job starting the game for us, Autumn did a great job of coming in and shutting them down. In the last two-and-a-half innings, she did a great job. I’m very proud of our pitching,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said.

BYU got off to a fast start, scoring two runs in the first inning. Rylee Jensen scored the first run of the game on a wild pitch with the bases loaded in the first inning. Fleener followed with a single up the middle to score Briielle Breland.

“It was a good cushion. We knew that they (Utah) were going to come out swinging, so it was good to get that cushion under for Kerisa so she’s not as tensed up, she knows that she has a couple insurance runs,” Fleener said.

The Cougars threatened to add to their lead in the second inning after Jensen hit a screamer to centerfield and advanced to third on an error, but Utah starting pitcher Hailey Hilburn got two outs to keep the score at 2-0. In the third, BYU loaded the bases with two outs, but Hilburn got out of it again on a bouncer back to her to keep it manageable for the Utes.

“We had Hailey out there, who has really been shutting teams down, so I felt that we were going to come in and get some offense going. It didn’t happen right away, but I felt like Hailey was going to settle in, and she did for a little bit — put a couple of zeros on the board, but, again, couldn’t find her changeup and got behind hitters so we had to make a switch and put Katie (Donovan) out there,” Utah head coach Amy Hogue said.

The Cougars would add three runs in the fourth to take control of the ballgame. A Libby Sugg RBI single into left field in the fourth inning pushed the Cougars’ lead to three, then a Fleener double down the right-field line scored two and gave BYU a commanding 5-0 lead.

“My approach is honestly really simple, it’s ‘Don’t think, just hit.’ I just gotta trust my mechanics and know that I’m here for a reason, and coach Eakin puts me in the lineup for a reason, so I just gotta clear my mind, just tell myself, ‘Don’t think,’ and then it just all comes to me,” Fleener said.

Utah scored twice to cut the lead to three. In the bottom of the fourth, BreOnna Castaneda launched a Viramontes pitch to right-center for an RBI double and Utah’s first run of the game, then, in the bottom of the sixth, Ryley Ball hit her first home run as a Ute, a solo shot to left field, to bring the Utes to within three runs. BYU brought on Moffat to pitch in the fifth inning, and with two on and no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Moffat hit her spots and struck out the next three Utah batters to leave the inning unscathed.

The Cougars and Utes now resume their conference schedules, and Fleener says that BYU has a lot of confidence heading back into conference play.

“I think it will put a fire under our butt, a little bit. We came out here already wanting to just go all at it, so I feel if we take that over to conference and finish these last two series and get it done, we’re just going to destroy everybody, I’m guessing,” Fleener said.