The BYU softball team extended its regular-season win streak over Utah to three games with a win on Wednesday night in the annual rivalry game between the two programs.
The Utes swept the Cougars out of the NCAA Regional last season at Dumke Family Softball Stadium, but the Cougars extracted a small measure of revenge with a win on the Utes’ home turf. The Cougars won regular-season meetings in 2016 and 2017.
Behind the strong pitching of a pair of underclassmen as well as a clutch hitting performance by freshman Bridget Fleener, the Cougars earned out a 5-2 win at the Dumke Softball Stadium on Wednesday.
The Cougars (25-19) collected five runs on 10 hits, including a three-run fourth inning. Sophomore starting pitcher Kerisa Viramontes allowed two runs on four hits in four innings, while freshman Autumn Moffat came on in relief and shut the door on the Utes (20-19).
“We actually left a lot of runners on base, which usually I’m a little troubled by,” Cougars coach Gordon Eakin said. “With those runners on base, we were squaring balls up. It was just going right to them. As long as we’re squaring them up, you know, you can’t really complain too much. If one or two of our balls wasn’t right at them, we would’ve opened this game way up early on. I think we played a solid game.”
Hailey Hilburn, who started the game in the circle for the Utes, and BreOnna Castaneda had two hits apiece, and Ryley Ball hit her first home run of the season. The Utes, who didn’t score until the fourth inning, stranded five runners on base in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings combined.
The Cougars grabbed a two-run lead in the first inning after the Utes intentionally walked Cougars’ cleanup hitter Libby Sugg with two runners on base and first base open. A wild pitch with the bases loaded allowed the first run to score. Then Fleener added an RBI single.
Sugg, a junior from Tennessee, came into the day with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs. She proved a Utes nemesis in last year’s regular-season meeting with two home runs in a 4-3 Cougars victory.
“Right when I saw that Libby was getting intentionally walked, I thought they’re coming after the freshman. I’ve got to step up and show that I could prove myself and it was a mistake,” Fleener said. “I’m glad that I did. I knew coming into it I was going to get opportunities, especially hitting in the five spot and hitting behind Libby.”
Hilburn stranded seven runners in the first three innings. She left trailing 2-0 and gave way to the pitching staff’s workhorse, Katie Donovan, to start the fourth. Donovan got tagged for a three-run inning spearheaded by an RBI single by Sugg and a two-run double crushed into right field by Fleener.
The Utes went eight consecutive batters without a base runner until Kelly Martinez walked and scored on an RBI double by Castaneda in the fourth. Utes sophomore Ryley Ball blasted her home run to start the fifth. After Viramontes walked the next batter, Moffat took over and retired three straight.
After giving up two singles to start the sixth, Moffat struck out the next three to squash the threat and keep the Cougars’ three-run margin going into the final inning. She retired the Utes in order in the seventh.
“We came to play, I think physically we just didn’t make the adjustments we needed to,” Utes coach Amy Hogue said. “We’ve been asking them to bring a little more enthusiasm and emotion to the game, and they did all those things. So I was proud of the push there.
“The problem is we’re falling short when it comes to getting those clutch hits. Swinging at strikes is something that we’ve been working really hard on and we struggled with today. That’s the name of the game moving forward for us, throw some more strikes and swing at some more strikes.”