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BYU shook off the 44-degree temperature as well as any postseason jitters and asserted its dominance in the first three innings against Southeastern Conference member Mississippi State in the opening game of the NCAA softball regional Thursday at the University of Utah's Dumke Family Softball Stadium.
The Cougars scored five runs in the first three innings on their way to an 8-0 win in a six-inning run-rule shortened contest. BYU moves on to the second day of the double-elimination regional without a loss. The Cougars pounded out 13 hits (four extra-base hits) including Alexa Strid's solo home run to start scoring in the second inning, and Lexi Tarrow went 3 for 4 with a double and a triple.
"That's the way this team is capable of playing," Cougars coach Gordon Eakin said. "We pitched well. We defended well defended great. We got timely hits. We just played a complete game today, and we're capable of doing that. The key is to continue that."
The Cougars had a 2-0 lead going into the third inning, but they really set the tone for the rest of the game in the third. Center fielder Brooke Vander Heide started the inning off with a highlight-reel catch that knocked the wind out of Mississippi State. She broke on a low liner hit by Kat Moore, and made a full-extension catch with the ball mere inches from the ground.
"There's always one point that kind of turns the tides," Mississippi State coach Vann Stuedeman said. "And I felt like that play really kind of said, 'We don't care. We're not going away.' For BYU. It was such a fantastic play. I felt like it was just a turning point."
The Cougars followed that up with a three-run bottom half of the inning. Tarrow started things with an aggressive base running play by stretching a sure single into a double. She slid into second base and dislodged the ball when it appeared she'd be out by several feet.
"I just wanted try and be aggressive and take extra bases," Tarrow said. "You know, you never know if you don't try."
After a bunt single and a walk loaded the bases, Alldredge grounded into a fielder's choice that brought in a run. Two batters later with the bases loaded and Briielle Breland at the plate, Mississippi State catcher Calyn Adams tried to pickoff Alldredge straying too far from second. Instead the pickoff attempt allowed pinch runner Madison Merrell to break from third and score the second run of the inning.
Alldredge advanced to third base and scored on a Breland RBI single.
Mississippi State's only hit off of Cougars star pitcher McKenna Bull didn't come until the fourth inning.
While Bull recorded just one strikeout, her teammates stood tall with plays both on the infield and the outfield. Along with Vander Heide's catch, Strid made a pair of spectacular diving snares at shortstop on balls ticketed for center field, and Alldredge didn't let anything sneak by at third base.
The Cougars added another run in the fourth and two more in the sixth to force the game to be halted.
"I'm super lucky that my team was definitely on point today with their defense," Bull said. "We had some diving catches in the outfield, and on the infield some stellar plays that definitely made my job a lot easier."
R BYU moves onto the second day of the Salt Lake City Regional with run-rule-shortened 8-0 win over Mississippi State.
• A diving catch by Brooke Vander Heide and a three-run third inning puts BYU ahead.
• BYU shortstop Alexa Strid (1 for 3, home run) and Lexi Tarrow (3 for 4, triple, double) lead the offensive attack.