Coming off three games at a rain soaked Louisville Slugger Invitational, the Utah Valley University softball team takes a brief respite from tournament play when it faces Utah in a doubleheader Tuesday at the Ute Softball Stadium. The double dip gets underway at 3 p.m. MT, with the second game slated to start around 5:30.
The in-state rivals split the season series last year as each team claimed a victory on the opponent's home field. Utah (6-4) topped the Wolverines (0-13) in extra innings, 4-2, in UVU's home opener, but Utah Valley returned the favor three weeks later with a 4-1 win in the Utes' first ever game at the new Ute Softball Stadium.
It was the first win for the UVU softball program in Salt Lake City and just its third in the all-time series.
The Wolverines enter the week seeking their first win after dropping three games at the Louisville Slugger Invitational in Long Beach, Calif. UVU had two games, against Illinois and Oregon State, cancelled due to the rainy conditions but completed games against UC Santa Barbara, host Long Beach State and No. 5 Michigan. Facing their highest-ranked opponent in program history, the Wolverines went toe-to-toe with their Big Ten namesake, trailing only 2-1 entering the sixth inning. A five-run sixth proved the difference for Michigan, taking the win 7-1.
Freshman Brittney Vansway, who leads Utah Valley in batting average (.241) and RBIs (3), drove in UVU's only run in the game, singling to left field in the top of the third to bring home Dynasy Lauvai from third base and level the score at 1-1.
Four different pitchers have started games for the Wolverines this season with Josi Summers receiving the most starting nods with seven. The junior put together one of her best outings against fifth-ranked Michigan, allowing just two runs on five hits over her first five innings of work.
"We will be looking to ride the momentum from the Michigan game," Wolverine head coach Nikki Palmer said. "Utah is always a solid opponent and the in-state competition is excellent. We are looking forward to having the whole team there tomorrow and hopefully we can come away with a couple wins."
Junior infielder Kate Dickman leads the Utes this season with a .595 batting average and ranks third on the team in RBIs with 9. Behind a team-high three home runs in the early season, true freshman Hannah Flippen has 11 RBIs, just one behind team-leader Bridget Castro's 12.
As a team, Utah has a team batting average of .361 and has driven in 65 runs through ten games.
In the circle, sophomore Kayce Nieto own the most starts for the Utes this season with seven. She is 3-4 on the year with a 3.09 ERA. Sammie Cordova has seen three starts and is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA.
Utah will be playing its third and fourth game of the week on Tuesday after hosting Ole Miss and Utah State in a doubleheader on Monday afternoon.
Following the quick trip up to Salt Lake City, UVU makes its annual trip to the Rebel Spring Games in Winter Haven, Fla. Beginning Saturday, March 8, the Wolverines will play 10 games over a six-day span. Utah Valley went 9-1 at the Games last season. It is also the final non-conference invitational for UVU before playing its home opener against Utah State on March 18.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.