Utah Valley University snapped an 11-game skid against in-state competition, splitting a Wednesday doubleheader with Southern Utah University at Wolverine Field. UVU took game one, 5-3, before falling in game two, 7-3, in eight innings.
Utah Valley (14-34) tied the program's single game record for home runs in a game when it connected for four in its first game win. All solo shots, the Wolverines notched a round-tripper in the first, second, third and fifth innings to keep in stride with SUU's (19-24) three runs in the early innings.
"Our offense and pitching were really strong today," Utah Valley head coach Nikki Palmer said. "The girls were getting tired with some of the losses lately and they put their foot down today. It was nice to see that."
Dara Rahm gave UVU a quick 1-0 lead when she deposited her first career home run over the wall in left-center field. Freshman Brianna Gatlin led off the second inning with a solo shot - her third home run of the year - to counter a Thunderbird run in the top half, and Erin Romero launched the third Wolverine homer in as many innings with her two-out shot in the third. Romero's fifth of the season tied the score at 3-3 after SUU had taken a brief lead with two runs in the top of the third.
Rahm and Romero each notched two hits in the first game, with Rahm also going 2-for-4 in game two to finish the day with a team-best four hits.
The Wolverine power surge was capped with Hailey Kofler's leadoff blast in the fifth inning, breaking the deadlock and ultimately putting UVU ahead for good. On a full count, Kofler turned on a pitch and drove it over the left field fence - good for the sixth homer of her freshman campaign. The Wolverines went on to pick up an insurance run in the frame as Kelli Fox worked a one-out walk and navigated her way into score by virtue of three Thunderbird wild pitches.
It was the fourth time in program history that UVU has hit four home runs, last completing the feat in 2012 against Youngstown State. The Wolverines had four home runs against Utah State in 2010 and, coincidentally, completed the feat for the first time in 2007 against SUU.
"The girls were focused on putting the ball in the air and letting the wind take care of it," Palmer said of her team's record-tying performance. "They committed to that plan and it worked out for us in the first game."
Bailey Moore (2-10) earned the win for UVU after throwing 6.0 innings and allowing three runs, two earned, on seven hits. Fellow freshman Kelsey Lawton earned the save - the first of her career - after throwing the seventh inning. Entering the game with the go-ahead run at the plate and runners on first and second with no outs, Lawton got a strikeout and induced a fielder's choice before responding from a walk to load the bases with a game-ending strikeout.
"Bailey and Kelsey did a great job," Palmer said. "They've both been working very hard in the bullpen and they knew what to expect coming into this one. They spotted the ball very well and took care of business."
In game two, the Wolverines entered the do-or-die seventh inning trailing 3-1, having notched just three hits for the game to that point. But with one away in the frame, Fox came through with a double down the left field line to bring the tying run to the plate. Megan Peay delivered in the big spot, lifting a high fly ball to dead center that just drifted over the wall. The two-run shot, and fifth of the day for UVU, tied the score at 3-3 and forced extra innings.
"Megan had one thing on her mind when she went up to bat, and she was committed to the plan and came through," Palmer said. "And Kelli had been seeing quite a few pitches in the same spot, so she made an adjustment and came through with a big double for us."
Unfortunately, it was all SUU in the eighth as the Thunderbirds scored four runs in the inning. All four runs were unearned against reliever Josi Summers, who had thrown 4.1 perfect innings to that point after coming on for Kailey Christensen in the third. Two errors in the frame helped SUU to the late rally, including a dropped foul ball that kept Kadi Henderson alive at the plate where she would go on to deliver a decisive, two-run home run.
Summers (7-15) suffers the loss despite allowing no earned runs on four hits while striking out six in 5.1 innings in relief.
Utah Valley wraps up the 2014 home season with its final WAC series of the year this weekend. The Wolverines play host to New Mexico State in a three-game set, beginning with a Friday doubleheader at 12 p.m. The series concludes Saturday with another noon first pitch.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.