OREM, Utah — Utah Valley University came back from the dead twice, but came up short on its third attempt, falling to the University of Utah 4-2 in 10 innings Tuesday at Wolverine Field.
Tuesday was the home opener for UVU softball who played its first 10 games of the season away from Orem.
UVU (5-6) pitcher Tiffany Mills was saddled with the loss despite a great effort from the circle. The senior allowed just two earned runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.
Mills and Ute pitcher Naomi Amu were locked in a pitcher’s duel for much of the afternoon with neither allowing a run through the first six innings of play.
With the international tiebreaker in effect in the top of the 10th, Utah (9-6-1) drove in a pair of runs by virtue of a Mariah Ramirez single and a Shelby Pacheco sacrifice fly — both coming with a runner on third.
The Wolverines, who had rallied from a run down with their backs against the wall in both the seventh and eighth innings, went down in order in the bottom half.
“The girls battled every inning, but mistakes killed us,” UVU head coach Rachel Hartgrove said. “We had multiple opportunities to win the game, but we just couldn’t get it done in those key situations. It’s definitely a tough loss, but we’ve got a difficult weekend coming up so we’ll need to bounce back quickly.”
UVU and Utah have needed extra innings to decide each of its last two meetings. Last year in Salt Lake City, the Utes topped the Wolverines 3-2 in eight innings.
After a scoreless six innings, Utah finally broke through in the top of seventh after having threatened in both the first and fifth innings. With only one away and a runner on second, Mills was able to retire top hitter Kelsi Hoopiiaina for the second out with a liner to first base.
The Wolverines seemed headed for another escape, but the Utes finally broke through on the next at-bat when leftfielder Kate Dickman lifted a fly ball into shallow center. Marie Williams came running on and sprawled out for the catch, only to the see ball pop out of her glove upon its impact with the turf. The drop gave Jackie Sweet enough time to come around from second, breaking the scoreless tie.
In the do-or-die seventh inning, UVU got a leadoff single from first baseman Amanda Robinson in the bottom half of the seventh. After third baseman Debra Lovell was retired on a line drive to second base, shortstop Krystin Jachim kept the rally hopes alive with a single through the left side.
With runners on first and second, second baseman Dynasty Lauvai came through with a big double down the right field line, plating Morgan Summers (pinch running for Robinson) to tie the score.
Lauvai was the only Wolverine to finish the game with multiple hits, finishing the game 2-for-3 with the lone UVU RBI.
The Wolverines had a chance to manufacture the winning run with runners on second and third and only one down, but Jazmyne Cortinas and Jamie North were each retired on comebackers to the pitcher sending the game to extras.
Sophomore Marissa Mendenhall went deep for Utah to open the extra frame — a solo shot that put the Utes back in front at 2-1. Still, Mills kept the damage to a minimum by retiring the next three hitters.
Faced with defeat for the second consecutive inning, the Wolverines again responded. Right fielder Dara Kosanke opened the frame with a single and was quickly advanced to third when Kylee Brinkerhoff laced a double down the left field line. Marie Williams then tried to lay down a squeeze bunt down the third base line and appeared to be out at first on the throw. But Williams was ruled safe as the first baseman pulled her foot from the bag early in an attempt to catch a streaking Kosanke at home. The junior right fielder beat the tag with a hook slide to level the score yet again.
With runners on first and second with no outs, the Utes were able to work out of the jam by virtue of a 5-4 double play off the bat of Robinson before Lovell grounded out to end the inning.
Utah Valley now embarks on an 11-game, nine-day road trip to the Southeast. The Wolverines make a pit stop in Fayetteville for a three-game series with Arkansas before continuing on to the Rebel Spring Games — an eight-game invitational in Kissimmee, Fla. The Arkansas series gets underway Friday with a 5 p.m. first pitch.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.