Utah State softball opened the season Friday, Feb. 8, with a pair of losses. The first coming at the hands of No. 6 Tennessee, who defeated USU, 10-0 in five innings. USU battled hard in its second game of the day, rallying late against future Mountain West Conference foe Colorado State but came up just short, falling 4-3.
In the second game of the day, USU locked horns with Colorado State in a low-scoring affair. Making her career debut in an Aggie uniform was freshman pitcher Noelle Johnson, who was able to keep CSU off the scoreboard until the bottom of the third inning when the Rams plated a run to take a 1-0 lead.
The Aggies responded with a two-out rally in the top of the fourth, scoring their first runs of the season and charging back to take a 2-1 lead into the bottom half of the inning. Johnson provided the offense well as she drove a hard hit ball into left field that plated sophomore outfielder Hailey Froton and junior infielder Nicole Arata.
Colorado State responded with a two-run inning of its own in the bottom of the fifth to reclaim the lead heading into the final two innings of the game. CSU increased its advantage in its next trip to the plate adding a solo run to push its lead to a 4-2 advantage.
Utah State looked to rally in its final at-bats of the game as freshman infielder Libby Pederson drove a single into rightfield. Junior outfielder Rachel Hunsaker entered the game to run for Pederson and advanced to second on a ground out by junior infielder Jolene Koons to give USU a scoring threat late in the game. Junior infielder Becca Walker would build on the late game threat after being hit by a pitch and was awarded first base.
Pitch hitter, senior pitcher Mandy Harmon would press the issue by knocking a ball towards third that was mishandled by the Rams to load the bases for the Aggies. Junior infielder Allison Lenzora recorded her first RBI of the season with a grounder to second base that allowed Hunsaker to cross safely home as well as bringing Utah State to within a single run of Colorado State, 4-3.
USU could not convert the late scoring opportunity and committed the final out of the game with the score remaining, 4-3. CSU relief pitcher Holly Reinke was credited with the win, while a strong performance from Johnson came up just short, as she suffers the her first loss of the season.
In the opening game of the day, Utah State put a runner in scoring position early in the first inning as junior infielder Kassandra Uchida earned a leadoff walk and advanced to second. Froton drove the ball back at the pitcher and reached safely at first, but Uchida was tagged out at home trying to slide under the tag.
Tennessee jumped out and took control early, plating six runs in the bottom of the opening frame. The Lady Volunteers would add to its lead over the next several innings and eventually solidified the final score of 10-0 after five innings.
Tennessee's Ellen Renfroe was credited with her first win of the season, while Aggie starter Mandy Harmon suffered her first loss of the season.
Freshman infielder Sarah Chow notched her first collegiate career start at first base against Tennessee. Also earning her first career start for Utah State was junior transfer Walker. Both of whom also started in the same position against Colorado State.
Utah State will continue its Red Desert Classic campaign on Saturday with matchups against Loyola Marymount, with first pitch set to be delivered at 11 a.m. (MT). LMU defeated USU last season, 5-1 in Los Angeles, Calif. The Aggies will then square off against in-state rival Southern Utah with game time set for 1:30 p.m. (MT).
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.