Utah Valley University fell in its 2014 season debut Friday, suffering a 7-3 loss at the hands of defending Big Sky Conference champion Idaho State at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah. The Wolverines surrendered an early lead as the Bengals scored six of their seven runs over the final three frames.
"We knew coming out Idaho State was going to be a tough opponent," UVU head coach Nikki Palmer said. "We haven't been able to work on a real dirt and grass field in some time and it showed a little bit. We had some hiccups in the infield that cost us, but moving forward this experience will make us just a little bit stronger."
True freshman Hailey Kofler gave the Wolverines (0-1) their first lead of the season when she broke a 1-1 deadlock with a two-run shot over the center field wall. Kofler's blast came on just the second bat of her career and scored Megan Peay, who entered the game as a pinch runner after a Brittney Vansway single led off the frame.
It was the only hit of the night for Kofler, who joined fellow freshman Brianna Gatlin as the only Utah Valley run producers in the game. Gatlin singled home a run in the top of the third inning, roping a line drive into center that plated Erin Romero from second base.
"We made some good contact tonight," Palmer said. "Hailey Kofler did a great job at the plate with her home run and we had some other good at-bats throughout the night. We barely missed on a few other occasions as well."
Junior outfielder Kelli Fox was the only Wolverine with multiple hits in the game, going 2-for-2 with two singles.
Though Kofler's homer put UVU in front, she proved to be the final Wolverine to cross home plate. ISU (3-0), who finished last season ranked eighth in the country in batting average and fifth in slugging, answered with six unanswered runs over the next three innings to remain unbeaten on the young season. The Bengals answered in the fourth inning with a run of their own to cut the deficit to 4-3, then regained the advantage in the fifth with two more runs. The game blew open in the bottom of the sixth when ISU tallied three times, all unearned.
UVU committed three errors in the game, each of which led to a Bengal run. As a result, Wolverine junior pitcher Josi Summers was saddled with the opening-day loss despite allowing just one earned run on the evening.
"We've got a lot of respect for Idaho State and the offensive weapons they have," Palmer said. "That said, I thought Josi threw a great game. We just had some critical errors that hurt us in the end."
The five-game Red Desert Classic continues Saturday at The Canyons Softball Complex with a Wolverine doubleheader. UVU will face Nebraska-Omaha at 1:30 p.m. MT, followed by a 4 p.m. date with in-state rival Weber State.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company