LOS ANGELES — Utah Valley University concluded the 2013 regular season Sunday, dropping both games of a Pacific Coast Softball Conference doubleheader, 5-3 and 2-1, to Loyola Marymount at Smith Field. LMU claimed the four-game series 3-1, handing UVU its first and only series loss of the league season.
The long ball was the difference for the Lions (33-23, 16-8), the top home run hitting team in the PCSC, who went deep in both games to separate themselves from the Wolverines (35-20, 14-10). UVU expended its fair share of offensive firepower but couldn't outhit its home standing opponents.
"Yesterday everything was about pitching, today it was the opposite," head coach Rachel Hartgrove said. "The first game they outhit us for the win and in the second, one little mistake ended up costing us. But I'm proud of the way the girls fought to the end. They had the heart, but we just didn't have the finish."
After a pitching-dominated afternoon on Saturday, Smith Field witnessed a power display to begin Sunday's twin bill. The two teams combined to hit four home runs as LMU pulled out a 5-3 win late. The eight runs in Sunday's game one doubled the total scoring output between both contests Saturday.
Krystin Jachim got the scoring underway almost immediately for UVU, muscling a 1-1 pitch in the top of the first over the fence in left field for her third home run of the season. The blast also scored Marie Williams, who had reached on a bunt single, to give the Wolverines a prompt 2-0 advantage.
The Lions answered right back, however, tallying three runs in the bottom half. After Hannah Montalban walked with one out, Meghan Harman delivered one of her two doubles in the game to score Montalban from first. In the next at-bat, Skylar Segura homered off Josi Summers — a two-run blast that suddenly saw LMU out in front 3-2. Summers (13-7) threw all 6.0 innings and allowed five earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts.
That score line stood until the fourth inning when UVU's Kylee Brinkerhoff found the sweet spot. Leading off the frame, the senior notched her second home run of the year with a blast to right-center field. The solo shot tied the game at 3-3 and was the second home run for the Wolverines off Lion pitcher Sydney Gouveia — a strong turnaround from 24 hours prior when Gouveia (18-4) struck out 22 UVU hitters in a 2-1, 10-inning win on Saturday.
The home side still had one more big fly left in them in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs and a runner standing on first base, Sterling Shuster delivered the decisive blow with a two-run homer down the left field line. An out away from escaping the inning, the Wolverines now found themselves trailing 5-3 with only three outs to work with.
Two-out rallies have not been unfamiliar to UVU this season, and it nearly pulled off the feat again in the do-or-die seventh. With two away and none on base, Megan Peay kept the game alive with a walk. Pinch-hitter Charlee Cisneros reached on another free pass and the bases became loaded on Amanda Robinson's infield single. But with her back against the wall, Gouveia hung on for the win, striking out Williams to end the ballgame.
Tiffany Mills pitched a complete game two-hitter for UVU in game two but was not exempt from the damage of the long ball. Her lone blemish came in the form of a two-run third inning homer from Harman. Mills (17-13) had induced three consecutive ground balls to second base in the frame, but after easily handling the first two, Morgan Summers failed to secure the third. The error allowed Breeanna Sandoval to reach safely, keeping the inning alive and setting the stage for Harman's big blast. The two runs, both unearned, were all Mills would surrender in the loss.
The Wolverines got a run back in the top of the fourth. Brinkerhoff reached with a one-out single to extend her season-best hit streak to 14 games. Then, after stealing second base, she came around to score on Debra Lovell's single up the middle in the ensuing at-bat. Jazmyne Cortinas moved Lovell to second on a sacrifice bunt, but UVU failed to bring her around to score as Cisneros flied out to left field to end the inning.
Dana Waldusky picked up the win for LMU, improving to 10-17 on the season. Erica Grady came on in the seventh inning to earn the save, her first of the season.
With a 14-10 record, Utah Valley concludes the season with a third place finish in the PCSC. The Wolverines had been selected to finish fifth in the seven-team league in the preseason coaches' poll back in February.
"I am proud of each and every one of these girls for the way they stuck through the year and accomplished some amazing feats," Hartgrove said. "I'm especially proud of our five seniors (Brinkerhoff, Cisneros, Jachim, Mills and Williams) who each turned in great years. There is definitely some room for improvement, but we'll get to work with the objective of coming back and competing for a championship next season."
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.