BYU came into the first game of the Tempe Regional hot.
Senior Rylee Jensen opened the game with a lead-off home run, trying to set the tone in favor of the Cougars. But BYU’s bats went quiet until the final inning, and Virginia Tech ran away with the win, 5-2, on Thursday at the Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium.
The Cougars will now face the loser of the No. 15 Arizona State-Southern Illinois game, which was played later Thursday, at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The Hokies are set to play the winner.
“Losing is always disappointing — we’re never happy with that,” coach Gordon Eakin said. “But one of the things this team needs to do is be resilient and bounce back tomorrow. ... Sometimes you need to tip your cap to your opponent because they outplayed you, and I think that was the case today — they just outplayed us.”
Virginia Tech pitcher Keely Rochard held the Cougars to just three hits, walked four batters and hit three. However, the ACC Pitcher of the Year also struck out seven batters.
BYU starting pitcher Autumn Moffat-Korth allowed 12 hits, five runs (four of them earned) and walked one batter, while getting only one strikeout in 5 2/3 innings.
“I think we just needed to adjust earlier in the game,” Jensen said. “We just kind of swung at bad pitches and just didn’t play our best game. And [Rochard] threw a great game.”
In the top of the seventh, with two runners on base and one out, Jensen went up to bat to try to keep the game alive. The senior walked, loading the bases, and HannahJo Peterson was able to bring in a runner on a fielder’s choice.
But it wasn’t enough to dig themselves out of the hole they got in earlier, and the Cougars fell to the Hokies.
Jensen wasn’t happy with being walked twice after her leadoff homer. She was itching at the chance to get some more hits.
“I wasn’t too happy about it, I wanted to hit really bad, but it just gave the opportunity for the next man up and that’s been our motto all season,” Jensen said.
Now in the elimination bracket, the Cougars will immediately switch their focus over to Friday’s game. Eakin said he and his staff would scout the Arizona State-Southern Illinois game and then do film studies before heading to bed.
Because the Sun Devils are the higher seed and expected to win — and the Cougars already played them twice at the start of the season — the BYU staff will focus more heavily on the Salukis, as they know less about that potential opponent.
Either way, Eakin said the Cougars will have to play to their strengths if they want to stay alive in the NCAA Tournament.
“Matchups aren’t as key in softball as they would be in, say, basketball,” Eakin said. “So, we’ll play to our strengths and play our game. I think, if we do that, and do it well, then we give ourselves a chance.”