Utah Valley University limited Kansas City to just two hits as it grinded out a 1-0 win in the semifinal round of the WAC Tournament on Friday. The win sends fourth-seeded UVU to Saturday's tournament championship with an unblemished, 3-0 record where it will need to lose twice in order to concede the title.
Saturday's championship game gets underway at 1 p.m. MT.
As has been the story all tournament long, the Wolverines (17-40) relied on their pitching to snare their third consecutive victory in Seattle. Senior Josi Summers started her third ballgame in two days and earned the win after throwing 5.2 scoreless innings and allowing just one hit while walking four. But whereas Summers went the distance in the previous two outings, she got some help from teammate and freshman Bailey Moore on Friday. Moore came in with two away in the sixth inning with Kangaroo (20-35) runners on the corners and UVU clinging to its 1-0 advantage. Moore went on to get the final out of the frame on a groundout, then secured the final three outs in the seventh inning to pick up her second career save.
In all, Summers and Moore combined to shut out UMKC while allowing only two hits. The duo faced 27 total batters and both hits allowed came on infield singles.
"Our pitchers have committed to a plan full on the past couple weeks," Utah Valley head coach Nikki Palmer said. "This team is so locked in right now and it's going to be really hard to stop them. Their goal is within reach and it's going to be difficult to take that from them."
The stellar pitching performance was just what the Wolverine offense needed as it also ran into some trouble with Kangaroo pitching. Starter Katie Kelley threw 3.2 innings and allowed only three hits in that time, while reliever Cinda Ramos fiished the game with three strikeouts and no hits allowed after entering in the fourth.
After tallying hits in each of the first two innings but coming up empty, Utah Valley manufactured what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the fourth. Debra Lovell led things off with a double off the wall in left center and moved to third when Brittney Vansway reached on an error in the next at-bat. Brianna Gatlin grounded out to move Vansway to second just before Hailey Kofler loaded the bases on a hit-by pitch.
With the bases chocked full, Megan Peay came through with a sacrifice fly into right field. Lovell came in to score on the play, and it was all the Wolverines would need as it rode out the game on the arms of its pitchers and yet another strong defensive performance.
"We don't have many superstars in our lineup but we have a lot of good ballplayers," Palmer said. "People step up when they need to because we're an all-around team. Peay hadn't had a great weekend at the plate but stepped up when she needed to and got her job done. That's what good teammates do."
Having emerged from the winner's bracket, UVU now awaits the winner of the tournament's loser's bracket Friday night. The loser's bracket final gets underway at 8 p.m. MT, and will feature UMKC against the winner of Friday evening's game between New Mexico State and host Seattle U. The Wolverines can clinch the title with a single win Saturday while their opponent will have to win twice in order to claim the crown.
The WAC Tournament champion will advance to the 2014 NCAA Softball Championship, opening play at the Regional round held May 16-18.
"The girls aren't worried about who they face," Palmer said, looking forward to Saturday's championship. "We're going to get refocused tonight but they're going to be ready for anybody."
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.