Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
PROVO, UT - The New Mexico State softball team lost a pair of games during Brigham Young's final at-bat during a doubleheader Saturday at the Cougars' Gail Miller Field.
BYU (19-8, 3-0 WAC) scored the game-winning run in its final at-bat in all three games this weekend including both contests Saturday. The Cougars scored a run on an error in game one to close out NM State (18-16, 0-3) 9-1 in five innings. BYU used a walk-off, three-run home run to break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh in the series finale for a 6-3 win.
The Aggies were held to just four runs and six hits on the day highlighted by home runs from freshman Staci Rodriguez and senior Brittany Clifton. Senior Tiare Jennings notched two hits on the day. Meanwhile, BYU posted 17 hits to produce 15 runs en route to sweeping the conference-opening series for both squads.
In game one, junior Alex Newman started for the Aggies while Hannah Howell began in the circle for BYU.
After a scoreless first inning, BYU opened its half of the second inning with a double and a single. Both runners moved into scoring position on the throw in from the outfield. A pair of sacrifice flies on consecutive at-bats brought in both runners to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead after two innings.
BYU erupted for six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take command of the game. The Cougars strung together five hits including four singles and a three-RBI triple to plate an 8-0 lead heading into the fifth inning. Aggie senior pitcher Kelsey Schueler came into the game to relieve Newman and get the final out of the fourth.
NM State extended the game in what could have been its final at-bat. With two outs in the top of the fifth, sophomore Valerie Swedberg reached on a fielder's choice. Freshman Malena Padilla ripped an RBI double off the left center wall to score Swedberg from first and make the score 8-1.
In its final at-bat BYU opened with a base runner after being hit by a pitch. Sophomore Celisha Walker came into the game for Schueler. Walker posted the first strikeout of the game and then got a ground out for the first two outs of the inning. An Aggie throwing error allowed the runner to score from first when the throw to the plate to tag the runner was just late. BYU claimed game two of the series 9-1 in five innings.
Newman took the loss to drop to 9-9 this season while Howell improved to 9-4 with the win.
In game two, neither team scored until Rodriguez blasted a two-run homer to left center after freshman Briana Tovio-Asato opened the third inning with a single.
The Aggies led 2-0 through the top of the fourth when Clifton added a solo home run to center field to increase the NM State advantage to 3-0. That homer led to a BYU pitching change as Tori Almond came on in relief to close out the game.
BYU's Delaney Willard hit her second home run of the weekend to score two in the bottom of the frame to cut the Aggie lead to 3-2.
The Cougars tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. BYU put a base runner on with one out after a batter was hit by a pitch. After a single and passed ball, the home team scored on a two-out infield single to make it a 3-3 ball game.
Almond did not allow NM State a hit in 3.1 innings of work and gave up just one walk the rest of the way.
After one out in the bottom of the seventh, the Cougars put runners on first and second following a walk and single. Willard came into the box again and fought back from two strikes down to hit the game-winning home run, her second round tripper of the game, to give BYU the 6-3 win.
Donisthorpe dropped to 5-4 with the loss while Almond improved to 5-2 with the win.
NM State returns to Las Cruces for its WAC home opener against No. 17 Hawai'i Friday, March 30 at 4 p.m. MT. The game will be nationally televised by ESPNU on a tape-delayed basis at 8 p.m. For live coverage, fans can listen to play-by-play from Kyle Doperalski on KSNM AM 570 or follow the official Aggie athletics twitter account @NMStateAggies.
The Aggies and Rainbow Wahine will conclude the three-game series with a doubleheader on Saturday, March 31 slated to begin at 4 p.m.