Utah State softball splits in-state doubleheader Wednesday

PROVO, Utah — In a pair of thrilling games, the Utah State softball team split a pair of games in Provo, Utah on Wednesday, falling to BYU 5-4 in eight innings and coming from behind to stop Utah Valley 10-9 at Gail Miller Field with a walk-off hit to cap a three-run bottom of the seventh.

With the split, Utah State snaps a five-game losing streak and improves to 14-18 overall. BYU is now 14-19, while Utah Valley is 10-20.

“I just told the team that this is a turning point in our season,” USU head coach Steve Johnson said. “We have 18 conference games left we need to take care of business in our own house and focus on playing softball. Everything else right now doesn’t matter. We have got a chance to do something still in conference, and that is where our focus has to be. I don’t think that this team has ever quit this season. Sometmes, we try to do too much, that last inning (against UVU) we just played. We were fortunate to come out on top.”

The second game against Utah Valley was a wild affair. Utah State jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. The Aggies took advantage of five walks by the Wolverine pitching staff.

Utah Valley responded with six runs in the top of third and two runs in the top of the fourth inning to take an 8-7 lead. The Wolverine comeback was highlighted by a pair of home runs to center by Debra Lovell and Rachael Schoonmaker.

Redshirt-sophomore Mariah Peterson started the game in the circle for the Aggies, but was replaced by sophomore Noelle Johnson in the fourth inning.

Utah Valley added another run in the top of the sixth inning with a solo home run from Erin Romero to take a 9-7 advantage.

Utah State mounted its comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning. Junior shortstop Jolene Koons started the inning with a four-pitch walk. Freshman third baseman Victoria Saucedo reached on a fielder’s choice and Koons beat out the play to put runners on first and second with no outs. Froton came through again for the Aggies with a bases-clearing double to tie the score at 9-9. Froton ended the game going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBI. After a walk by sophomore first baseman Libby Pederson, UVU’s Bailey Moore threw a wild pitch to advance both Pederson and Froton. Sophomore designated player Kirstyn Namba then delivered the game-winning hit with a single to right to score Froton and end the game, sparking the Aggies’ celebration.

USU took on BYU in the first game of the day, dealing with the Cougars and the snow. In the bottom of the first inning, the Cougars loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a base hit by Ashley Thompson. Johnson was able to get out of the jam by getting Coco Tauali’i to pop up to short to end the inning.

BYU struck first in the bottom of the third inning. Johnson was able to get the first two outs but walked McKenzie St. Clair, who then moved to second on a wild pitch. St. Clair scored the first run of the game on a base hit by Katie Manuma that just skipped over first base. For the second inning of the game, Johnson was able to get out of the frame with the Cougars leaving the bases loaded.

The Aggies took the lead in the top of the fourth inning. Sophomore rightfielder Kirstyn Namba got USU’s first hit of the game with a single up the middle. With two outs, junior centerfielder Hailey Froton launched a home run to right to give the Aggies the 2-1 lead. The long ball was the fifth of the season for Froton to lead the team.

USU added another run in the top of the fifth inning, taking advantage of brief wildness by BYU pitcher Tori Almond. With two outs, sophomore leftfielder Sarah Chow knocked her first triple of the season to the wall in right center. On Almond’s second-straight wild pitch, Chow scored to put USU up 3-1.

The Cougars got one run back in the bottom of the fifth inning and eventually tied the score in the bottom of the sixth. BYU tied the score at 3-3 with a one-out solo home run by Sydney Broderick.

In the top of the seventh inning, both teams plated one run to send the game to extra innings. The teams used the international tiebreaker rule starting in the eighth inning as Utah State placed Froton on second to start the inning. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Devin Montgomery, but the Aggies were not able to get the run across the plate. BYU took advantage of the tiebreaker rule when the first runner of the inning, Broderick knocked a bunt single that found its way between first and second, allowing Lauren Bell to scored from second for the 5-4 win.

USU will then return to Mountain West action on Friday, April 4 against San José State at 3 p.m. On Saturday, April 5, the Aggies will honor the 30th anniversary of the 1984 NCAA Women’s College World Series team prior to the game that begins at 1 p.m. The weekend series finale will be on Sunday, April 6 at 1 p.m.

Aggie fans all the games in the series live through the Mountain West Network at http://www.utahstateaggies.com/videos/.

Fans can keep up with all of the Aggie softball action at www.utahstateaggies.com. Follow Utah State athletics, including softball, at http://twitter.com/USUSoftball, as well as on facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/USUSoftball.

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