Utah State softball faltered in its final game in the Red Desert Classic, as South Dakota gained control early in the action before USU mounted a late game rally that came up just short, falling 5-4.
The Aggies fall to 0-5 on the season.
The Coyotes offense wasted no time in setting the early tone as they were able to score three runs in the top of the opening frame. South Dakota added to its lead in the top of the second inning as it was able to plate another runner, pushing its lead to a 4-0 advantage.
The Aggies answered back with a solo run in the bottom half of the second inning when sophomore outfielder Hailey Froton drew a walk and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Junior catcher Samantha Miller capitalized on the scoring threat by driving a ball to left field that scored Froton from second.
South Dakota scored its fifth and final run in the top of the fourth inning, extending its lead to a 5-1 advantage. Utah State once again put together a rally to threaten the Coyotes lead, as USU scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth frame to pull within two runs before being retired. Sophomore outfielder Nicole Arata started the inning with a walk, which was followed by another walk to freshman infielder Libby Pederson to put a runner in scoring position. Freshman pitcher Noelle Johnson delivered when her team needed her with a two out double to centerfield that scored Arata and Pederson.
The Aggies looked to overcome the early deficit in their final at-bats of the game. With one out, junior outfielder Rachael Hunsaker lifted a single into right field and advanced to second when junior infielder Kassandra Uchida put a ball in play that was not fielded cleanly by the Coyotes second baseman. Arata followed with a single to leftfield, allowing Hunsaker to score and pull Utah State within a run of South Dakota, 5-4.
USU added to the late-game scoring threat as Froton drew a walk to load the bases with two outs but could not complete the come-from-behind victory as the Aggies committed the final out of the game. Utah State produced six hits in Sunday’s game, as well as a season-best four runs.
USU starting senior pitcher Mandy Harmon was charged with Sunday's loss and falls to 0-3 on the season.
The Aggies will next see action on Feb. 15, as they travel to take part in the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson, Ariz. Utah State will open its five-game set in the Invitational with a bout against Big 10 foe Purdue.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.