UVU softball: Michigan's late rally is the difference in battle of Wolverines
Facing its highest ranked opponent in program history, Utah Valley University went toe-to-toe with fifth-ranked Michigan on Saturday at the Louisville Slugger Invitational, only succumbing to its Big Ten namesake after a five-run sixth inning settled the final score at 7-1 in favor of Michigan.
After UVU's game against Oregon State originally scheduled for Saturday morning was cancelled due to heavy rain in the area, the meeting of the Wolverines was pushed back two hours to accommodate for the weather. The game saw two delays before finally being called after the sixth inning as the rain continued to pour.
"We basically waited six hours to play today, and even then we had to deal with two delays," Utah Valley head coach Nikki Palmer said. "The girls fought so hard through a lot of adversity and (pitcher) Josi Summers threw a great game. A different team took the field against Michigan than we've seen in our earlier games and surely this will carry over into our future games."
Summers, getting her seventh start of the season, twirled 5.2 innings for UVU (0-13) and allowed six earned runs on eight hits while striking out two. But in her first five innings of work, the junior limited Michigan — the sixth-best scoring team in the nation — to just two runs on five hits.
Michigan (13-2) jumped out to a quick 1-0 in the bottom of the first after shortstop Sierra Romero hit an RBI single into center field. Romero would pace the maize and blue Wolverines on a 3-for-3 day with two RBIs.
But after a scoreless second inning, Utah Valley answered back with a run of its own in the top of the third inning. Shortstop Morgan Summers singled to begin the frame but was retired on Dynasty Lauvai's fielder's choice. In the next at-bat, Kelli Fox worked a walk to push Lauvai to second base. A groundout from Brianna Gatlin pushed both runners up a base and into scoring position, setting the stage Brittney Vansway's two-out RBI single. The freshman drove a pitch off Michigan pitcher Sara Driesenga into left field allowing Lauvai to scurry home.
Michigan regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning behind a two-out RBI single from Caitlin Blanchard, but Summers kept UM off the board for the next two innings. The junior worked out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth, getting the second and third outs with a maize and blue Wolverine standing in scoring position on second base. Then, facing a bases-loaded situation in the top of the fifth, Summers got back-to-back groundouts to escape unscathed.
UVU left two runners stranded on base in the fourth and two more in the sixth before Michigan broke things open with a five-run rally in the bottom of the sixth. All five runs came with two outs in the inning and settled the final 7-1 scoreline as freshman Bailey Moore came on in relief of Summers to record the final out of the inning.
With the rainy conditions worsening as the game marched on, the game was called after the sixth inning, shortening the contest by an inning.
"Something clicked for us today," Palmer said of her team's performance against a top-10 opponent. "There was something noticeably different about how we played and it's a little unfortunate that the final score doesn't reflect that. But I am very proud of the way we played today and can't wait to get back at it next week."
Hailey Kofler was the third UVU Wolverine to come away with a hit on the day, going 1-for-3 after a sixth-inning single.
Utah Valley returns to Utah for its next two games but will remain on the road. The Wolverines visit Salt Lake City for a Tuesday doubleheader against Utah, beginning at 3 p.m. Last season, UVU recorded its first-ever win over the Utes in Salt Lake City, beating Utah 4-1 in the first game played at the new Ute Softball Stadium.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.