With Western Athletic Conference play set to begin this weekend, the Utah Valley University softball team plays host to one final non-conference tune-up when it hosts Idaho State at 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Wolverine Field.
The Wolverines (7-18) have lost four straight since returning home from the Rebel Spring Games where they went a combined 7-1. Upon its return to Utah, UVU dropped a doubleheader at home to Utah State before falling in another twinbill at Weber State the next day. Utah Valley held leads in three of its previous four, but each time surrendered big offensive innings to the opposition to extend the losing streak.
ISU enters the week with a 17-11 record and again boasts one of the top offenses in the country. The defending Big Sky Conference champions are a year removed from a top-10 finish in three major offensive statistical categories, finishing the 2013 season ranked fifth in the nation in slugging (.552), seventh in home runs per game (1.5) and eighth in batting average (.329). Returning 10 players from that squad, the Bengals continue to see the bats rolling as they rank eighth in the country in team batting average (.338) and 11th in scoring at 6.75 runs per game.
Kacie Burnett leads the high-powered offense with a .469 batting average to go along with four RBIs and 15 stolen bases. Junior Vicky Galasso supplies the power in the Bengals' lineup, owning a .370 average and a team-high 11 home runs on the year.
Opening Big Sky play last week, ISU went 2-1 in a three-game series at Portland State. Tuesday's contest against UVU kicks off a five-game road swing through the Beehive State as the Bengals also travel to Utah for a single game Wednesday before closing the week in a three-game series against BYU.
In a series dating back to 2006, Utah Valley owns a 21-13 edge all-time against ISU. The Wolverines claimed 11 of the first 13 contests against the Bengals, but since then the series has been basically even as ISU holds an 11-10 advantage over the last 21 meetings. The Bengals are 3-1 in their last four against UVU, claiming this season's first meeting by a score of 7-3 on opening day at the Red Desert Classic in early February.
Following Tuesday's game, the Wolverines begin their first-ever assault on WAC play when they travel to face Bakersfield in a three-game series. UVU and CSUB will play a single game Friday before taking the field for a doubleheader Saturday. A former PCSC rival, the Wolverines went 3-1 against the Roadrunners last season.
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