RUSTON, La. — For only the second time in program history, Utah State's softball team won its Western Athletic Conference season-opener on Friday by defeating Louisiana Tech 4-0.
Mandy Harmon, who tossed a complete-game shutout, led USU as she refused to surrender a run to the Lady Techsters.
With the win, the Aggies halted a nine-game losing streak that began on March 9 against Pittsburgh in the Long Beach State Invitational.
Utah State (9-17, 1-0 WAC) last won its WAC-opener in 2010 when it defeated Nevada 12-4. USU provided Harmon with all off the offense she needed early in the game, scoring a run in the opening frame against LA Tech.
Sophomore outfielder Kassandra Uchida drew a lead-off walk and worked her way around to third as senior infielder Kelley Kaneshiro came to the plate. Kaneshiro executed a perfect squeeze bunt that allowed Uchida to race home without being tagged, giving the Aggies an early 1-0 advantage.
Pitching and defense took over from that point forward as neither team would allow the other offensive momentum. The Utah State defense tightened in support of its starting pitcher, neutralizing several scoring opportunities by Louisiana Tech and converting two double days.
Harmon struck out six batters, tying her season high, while only surrendering five hits over seven innings and improving to 4-8 this season.
The Aggies added support to their cause in the top of the seventh frame with singles by freshman catcher Jolene Koons and senior infielder Tatem Day. The runners advanced to second and third, respectively, on a fielder's choice hit by sophomore outfielder Christina Cummings.
For the second time in the game, with a runner on third Utah State executed a sacrifice squeeze bunt to score the runner from third. This time, it was Uchida laying down a flawless bunt that forced the action of the defense and allowed Koons to slide head first across home safely.
After a steal by Uchida, senior infielder Lindsey Marquez capitalized on the opportunity by lacing a line-drive single to score both Day and Uchida. This season, Marquez has 12 RBIs, which ties her with Kaneshiro for the most on the team.
USU will continue its series with WAC foe LA Tech on Saturday in a doubleheader. First pitch is set for 12 p.m. MT.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.