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College softball: BYU beats Northwestern 7-2 in NCAA opener

Published May 15, 2014 8:00 pm

College softball • Cougars break open scoreless tie with five-run rally in fifth.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Seattle • David scored another impressive victory over Goliath on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Division I softball tournament.

Diminutive BYU right fielder Gordy Bravo broke up a scoreless game with a run-scoring single to ignite a five-run fifth inning in BYU's 7-2 triumph over a veteran Northwestern squad that dwarfed the young Cougars in size.

The 5-foot-2 Bravo lashed a high fastball to left-center to plate former Olympus High School star Carly Duckworth, who led off the fifth with a well-placed bunt single. Mercedes O'Connor, one of five freshmen in BYU's starting lineup, capped the fifth-inning outburst with a two-run double to deep left.

The West Coast Conference champions from BYU improved to 34-21 by winning their 16th straight game. Northwestern, the suburban Chicago squad that finished fifth in the Big Ten Conference, fell to 33-17.

The Cougars advance to Saturday's title game at the Seattle Regional if they win Friday at 2 p.m. against host Washington. An afternoon loss Friday would force BYU to play a loser-out game at 7 p.m. at Husky Softball Stadium.

Washington (34-13), the No. 12 seed in the 64-team NCAA tournament, defeated Iona (24-23) 8-0. The game was called in the sixth inning due to the eight-run rule.

Bravo, a high-energy, ever-smiling sophomore from Corona, Calif., has quickly emerged as a team leader. However, longtime BYU coach Gordon Eakin admits Bravo's lack of size worried him when recruiting her.

"It did," Eakin said with a smile, "before she sat in my office and told me I was taking her. I liked every bit about that 5-2 kid."

"People didn't believe I can play at this level," recalled Bravo, a .322 hitter who batted third Thursday. "But he [Eakin] gave me a chance, and I'm thankful for it."

Back at ya, kid.

"There's a lot of fight in that 5-2 frame," Eakin said. "She doesn't get intimidated. She's a money player."

The Wildcats, one of the most explosive offensive teams in the country, collected just four hits off Tori Almond and McKenna Bull. Almond (11-6), a senior out of Bingham High, earned the win. Bull, a freshman from Weber High, threw 2 1/3 innings of no-hit relief for her seventh save.

"I think we didn't make adjustments fast enough (at the plate)," said Northwestern star Emily Allard, who chased Almond with a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth. "Give credit to their pitchers. They made some really big pitches." —

BYU 7, Northwestern 2

O BYU broke up a scoreless game by scoring five runs in the top of the fifth inning.

• The Cougars gained momentum in the bottom of the fourth when second baseman McKenzie St. Clair and center fielder Carly Duckworth made brilliant diving plays in the field.

• Northwestern came into the day ranked among the national leaders with a .332 team batting average and 6.6 runs per game.