A roaring comeback gave way to a heartbreaking defeat as Utah Valley University overcame a seven-run deficit only to surrender a two-run lead in the seventh, falling to Utah State, 10-9, on Wednesday night at Gail Miller Field.
The Wolverines (10-20) scored their nine runs on 10 hits, hitting three home runs along the way — their most in any game so far this season. Five of UVU's nine runs on the night came via the long ball, but it wasn't enough to keep USU (14-18) at bay as the Wolverines finish the season series with their in-state rivals at 0-3.
"It's definitely frustrating but we're not going to let this get us down," UVU head coach Nikki Palmer said. "We're a young team so we're learning how to be a little tougher in the late innings, but things like tonight will ultimately prepare us for later in the season and in the postseason."
After erasing a seven-run deficit earlier in the game, the Wolverines held a 9-7 lead entering the seventh and final inning. But after having been stifled by freshman pitcher Bailey Moore through four innings, USU stunned UVU with three runs to walk off with a win before an out had even been recorded.
Moore suffered the loss for UVU despite allowing only three runs on four hits through 5.1 innings of work. She came on in relief in the bottom of the first and recorded the final out of a frame that saw the Wolverines yield seven runs to the Aggies.
"Bailey did a great job," Palmer said. "She was nice and relaxed in the circle and trusted her natural abilities. We were able to rely on her quite a bit tonight."
Trailing 7-0 after one inning, the Wolverines quickly found themselves on the comeback trail, almost digging out of the hole in one swoop. After Amanda Robinson went down swinging to open the top of the third, Rachael Schoonmaker stepped in and delivered her first home run in a UVU uniform. The solo shot to center got the Wolverines on the board and ignited what proved to be a five-run rally. Dynasty Lauvai and Morgan Summers followed Schoonmaker with back-to-back singles, and after Hailey Kofler flew out, Brianna Gatlin walked to load the bases. Brittney Vansway then came through with a big two-out hit, singling to right center to plate Lauvai and Summers to make the score 7-3. In the next at-bat, Debra Lovell came through with the second big blast of the inning, pumping a three-run shot to straightaway center to pull the Wolverines to within a single run.
A 1-2-3 fourth inning from pitcher Moore quickly returned UVU and its hot bats to the plate where UVU took its first and only lead. Lauvai drove in the first run of the inning when her sacrifice fly to right field scored Erin Romero, who had entered as a pinch-runner, from third base. Schoonmaker, standing on first base, also moved up on the play and subsequently came all the way around to score on Summers' seeing-eye single in the next at-bat. Chopping it toward the left side, the ball found its way past two Aggie gloves and into the outfield grass to plate Schoonmaker and give the Wolverines an 8-7 lead.
Romero later joined in on the Wolverine power display, crushing a line drive over the left-center field fence in the top of the sixth inning. The homer was the second of the year for the junior transfer and gave UVU a 9-7 advantage just before the fateful seventh frame.
Utah Valley returns to WAC action this weekend when it travels to face Seattle U in a three-game series. The Wolverines and Redhawks will play a Friday doubleheader before concluding the series with a single game Saturday.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.