It was a huge home run, but it wasn't surprising. —UVU head coach Nikki Palmer
Erin Romero went 3-for-3 with a home run and Amanda Robinson connected for her 11th blast of the season as Utah Valley University topped Bakersfield, 4-1, on Thursday morning to kick off the 2014 WAC Tournament at Seattle U's Logan Field.
The Wolverines (15-40), who will now advance to a Thursday quarterfinal against top-seeded New Mexico State at 3 p.m. MT, also got a complete game effort from senior pitcher Josi Summers in the win. CSUB (15-39-1) will play a win-or-go home game against the loser of the second game between host Seattle U and Kansas City.
The game had all the looks of a pitcher's duel early on as Utah Valley and Bakersfield combined for just one hit entering the third inning. But with two down in the frame, the Wolverine bats loudly came to life.
Robinson crushed the first home run of the tournament over the left field wall, scoring Romero — who had singled in the inning's first at-bat — from third base. The big blast kicked off a string of four consecutive two out hits for UVU, as Debra Lovell followed with a single down the left field line. A Brittney Vansway single then pushed Lovell to third, and she came in to score one batter later on Brianna Gatlin's liner through the left side.
"It was a huge home run, but it wasn't surprising," UVU head coach Nikki Palmer said of Robinson's blast to break the scoreless deadlock. "She's been doing that a lot lately and we expect her to continue to do that. She put on a show in batting practice yesterday and those kinds of big hits are what she is capable of."
Robinson now has 11 home runs this season, including eight over her last 11 games. She began the month of April with just one long ball to her name.
With one out in the fourth inning, Romero extended the Wolverines' lead with a solo home run to left — her sixth of the season. She went on to finish a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with two singles, nabbing her first three-hit performance since April 5, when she went 3-for-4 in the same ballpark against Seattle U.
"Erin was locked in today, really focused and prepared for the game," Palmer said. "We've got threats up and down the lineup and it's exciting anytime we get that kind of production out of the nine spot."
A 4-0 cushion was more than enough for pitcher Summers who kept the Roadrunners off-balance from the first inning. The senior did not allow a hit over the first 4.2 innings and ultimately limited CSUB to only four. Summers struck out two batters in her sixth complete game of the season.
"Josi is a really strong pitcher and has dialed it in recently," Palmer said of her starter's dominance. "She understands her role and is embracing it big time."
Utah Valley now turns its attention to NM State, the top seed in the WAC Tournament. The Wolverines went 0-2 against the Aggies this season, dropping a pair at home before seeing the third game of the conference series rained out.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.