LOGAN, Utah — After nearly a week off, the Utah State softball team returned to action, splitting a doubleheader against in-state rival Weber State Tuesday at LaRee and LeGrand Johnson Softball Field. USU captured the opener, 6-2, but lost the second game 8-3.
With the split, Utah State is now 16-22 this season, while Weber State evens out its record at 20-20. The Aggies are now 6-3 against the Beehive State this season.
“We did a good job behind Noelle (Johnson) in the first game,” USU head coach Steve Johnson said. “We bounced back after they scored those two runs. We did a much better job defensively in the first game. Our biggest issue all year is staying consistent. They didn’t do anything pitching wise that we couldn’t handle. We just didn’t make adjustments in the second game. That was disappointing.”
In the first game, the Wildcats struck first with a single run in the top of the third inning off of sophomore starting pitcher Noelle Johnson. Weber State took advantage of a walk and an USU error to score an unearned run and take a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the first inning.
Utah State responded with three runs of its own in the bottom of the third. Junior shortstop Jolene Koons reached on a fielder’s choice, while freshman third baseman Victoria Saucedo followed with a walk. Junior outfielder Hailey Froton grounded out, advancing both Koons and Saucedo a base. Freshman first baseman Paxton Provost walked to load the bases. Johnson helped her own cause after she was hit by a pitch to scored Koons. Sophomore outfielder Kirstyn Namba came up big with a two-run single up the middle, as USU took a 3-1 lead.
Both teams scored one run in the fourth inning, as the Aggies went ahead 4-2. With two outs, Koons doubled to left center. Saucedo drove home Koons with a single to center for her 21st RBI of the season.
The Aggies added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth to increase their lead to 6-2. Junior Nicole Arata delivered a pinch hit single to the pitcher that drove home sophomore Libby Pederson. With the bases loaded, Koons walked to bring home another run.
In the second game, junior pitcher Franny Vaaulu made her Aggie debut. She comes to the softball team from the USU women’s basketball team where she is a forward.
“Franny did an outstanding job coming in. She was a big-time recruit coming out of high school, a great athlete who chose basketball. She hadn’t really thrown in about three years, and is playing after only three or four days worth of practice. Obviously, she has some rust on her, but you can see some bright moments. We believe in her right now, and she is going to stick with us the rest of the year and hopefully be a big part of our staff. We were really proud of her. I think she was more nervous than anything else,” Johnson said.
After allowing two runs in the top of the second inning, Utah State bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the second to tie the score 2-2. Provost singled to right and was pinch ran for by senior Annie Thomas. Senior catcher Samantha Larsen then launched her first career home run.
The Wildcats took the lead for good in the top of the third inning with four runs off of Vaaulu. The rally was highlighted by RBI hits by Brooke Silva, Kylee Hogue and Mylee Davis.
USU got one run back in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to 8-3.
Johnson earned the win in the first game one to improve to 15-13, while Vaaulu suffered her first loss of the season, falling to 0-1.
Utah State returns to Mountain West action with a three-game series against San Diego State beginning on Thursday, April 17 at 7 p.m. (MT).
Aggie fans can follow all home games 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.