Eugene, Ore. • Pitching, defense and team depth paid off for the BYU women’s softball team, which needed extra innings for a walk-off victory in the opening round of the NCAA Division I Softball Championship.
Tori Almond pitched three innings of scoreless relief Thursday while Shelbi Everett drove home the winning run with a double in the bottom of the ninth to push the Cougars into the winner’s bracket of the Eugene Regional with a 4-3 victory against Mississippi State at Howe Field.
The Cougars also pulled off a triple play in the seventh inning that halted a potential winning rally.
BYU, which plays the winner of Oregon-Portland State on Friday at noon, had a chance to win the game in the eighth. WAC Player of the Year Delaney Willard struck out with the bases loaded.
The Cougars (44-13), who won for the 20th time in 21 games, were able to advance despite not receiving any offense from the middle of the order. The top of the order drove in three of four runs, including Tiffany Messerschmidt’s two-run single in the second that gave BYU a 3-0 lead.
Mississippi State (33-23) scored three in the fifth off of BYU starter Hannah Howell to tie the game. The Bulldogs opened the seventh with back-to-back singles by Kaili Smith and Heidi Sharpe.
Sam Lenahan, who doubled home two runs in the fifth, then rifled a line drive that was snagged by BYU third baseman Ashlee Brawley. The ensuing throw to second baseman Stacie Toney and first baseman Katie Manuma caught the MSU runners off base.
BYU, which chased Mississippi State starter Lindsey Dunlap after three innings, finally broke through against Kylie Vry, who opened the bottom of the ninth by walking Manuma. Carly Duckworth, who ran for Manuma, stole second, forcing the Bulldogs to walk Krista Hicks.
One batter later, Everett doubled home Duckworth with the game-winner.