FARMERS BRANCH, Texas — The Utah Valley University softball team captured its first-ever Great West Conference championship Monday with a 3-1 victory over defending tournament champion Houston Baptist.
The Wolverines, who were sent to the one-loss bracket after a 3-2 loss to HBU Sunday night, fought their way back to the championship game with a 5-4 win in nine innings over Nebraska-Omaha in the first game Monday.
UVU followed it up with a 4-2 win over HBU in the first game of the championship to force a winner-take-all second game.
Tiffany Mills (18-17) earned the decisive win on the mound. She was perfect through four before giving up a hit to open the fifth. She lost the shutout later in the inning when Callie Herrington singled home Michaela Granchelli to cut a UVU lead to 3-1.
HBU had runners on first and second before Mills forced Beth Evans to ground out to end the threat.
With the win, the Wolverines end the season with a school-record 33 wins against 26 losses and one tie.
“The girls did a great job. Winning three games in a row is not an easy thing to do in this heat and humidity. Different girls were stepping up and Mills threw a gem," UVU softball coach Todd Fairbourne said. "You don’t win three in a row if you don’t do a lot of things right. I am proud of the girls."
The Wolverines pounded out three hits in the top of the first and plated a run on an RBI single by Amanda Perez, which scored Amanda Robinson, who doubled earlier in the frame.
The Wolverines increased their lead to 3-0 in the third. Robinson, who reached on a fielder's choice, moved to second on an illegal pitch and scored on a single by Krystin Jachim. Jachim also moved to second on an illegal pitch before scoring on a single to right by Perez. Perez went 3 for 3 with two RBIs to pace the Wolverines, while Jachim had a pair of base hits.
Robinson, who hit .500 (8-16) with three doubles, two homers, four RBIs and seven runs scored in five tournament games, was named the tournament MVP. The two home runs in the tournament gave her 13 for the season, which is a new single-season school record at Utah Valley — passing Perez's old mark of 12 (2010).
Mills, who went 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 24.2 innings, was named the top pitcher of the tournament.
UVU 4, HBU 2: Jachim belted a two-run homer in Utah Valley's three-run first inning, and pitchers Cassie Herrera and Megan Peay made them stand in leading the Wolverines to a victory over Houston Baptist to force a winner-take-all game for the Great West Conference crown.
In five innings of work, Herrera (9-3) allowed two runs on six hits and Peay didn't allow a hit in two innings to lead the Wolverines to their school-record 32nd victory over the season.
Robinson, who an RBI double in the first inning, belted a solo homer in the third to give the Wolverines an additional cushion.
UVU 5, Nebraska-Omaha 4 (9): Deianna Russell went 3 for 5 from the plate and drove in the game-winning run in the top of the ninth to lift the Wolverines to an extra-inning victory over the University of Nebraska-Omaha in a loser-out contest at the Great West Conference championships.
Russsll finished with three RBIs in the contest, while Robinson and Jachim had three hits each in the Wolverines' 12-hit attack.
Peay entered the contest with one out in the fifth and earned the win. She allowed just one hit, walked two and fanned one in improving to 6-3.
In 4.1 innings, starter Mills allowed four runs (all earned) on six hits, while walking four and striking out four in taking the no-decision.
Jay Hinton is a sports information assistant at Utah Valley University