MORAGA, Calif. — Utah Valley University suffered an extra-inning defeat in game one but responded with a 3-1 victory in game two to earn a 2-2 series split with Saint Mary's in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference opening series.
Game one proved to be a fierce pitching duel as UVU's Tiffany Mills and SMC's Lujane Mussadi threw a combined 19.1 innings of scoreless softball. Mills allowed just six hits and struck out seven but was saddled with the loss when the Gaels finally broke through in the bottom of the tenth inning.
With the international tie breaker in effect, SMC (9-19, 2-2) was awarded a runner on second base to start the frame. Katelyn Mazikuma attempted to push the runner to third with a sacrifice, but an error from the Wolverines' Debra Lovell allowed Mazikuma to advance all the way to second base. Brittany Sabatini grounded out in the next at-bat, but the bases became loaded when Erica Musgrave was hit by a pitch. Megan Smith, who tallied a pair of RBIs in Saturday's first game, then drove home the winning run.
Despite not allowing an earned run and scattering six hits through 9.1 innings pitched, Mills falls to 6-6 on the year with the loss.
Having gone the last 10 innings without a run, Amanda Robinson wasted little time putting the Wolverines out in front in game two. Hitting in the leadoff spot, Robinson blasted her third home run of the season in her very first at-bat to put UVU up 1-0.
With the early advantage, pitcher Josi Summers (6-5) went to work for the Wolverines. The sophomore kept SMC without a base runner through the first four innings and finished the game with six strikeouts and no walks.
The Gaels finally broke through against Summers in the bottom of the sixth, picking up a run on a two-out fielding error. Mamikuza, who led off the frame with a double, looked destined to be left stranded on second after Summers retired the next two batters on fly outs. But when a ball off the bat of Megan Smith was misplayed at third, Mamikuza came all the way around to score, keeping SMC within striking distance.
With the score still 3-1, things got a bit hairy in the Gaels' do-or-die seventh inning. After the leadoff hitter reached on an error, Mills took the ball from Summers with a chance for the save. A Christine Torrise single moved runners to first and second, bringing the potential winning run to the plate. Andrea Hazel was retired on a groundout but advanced the runners into scoring position on the play. Mills then loaded the bases after plunking Loralie Fitzpatrick, putting the Wolverine lead in serious jeopardy with just one out.
But Mills retired the next two hitters, forcing back-to-back groundouts to escape the jam and pick up her fourth save of the season. Mamikuza tapped a come-backer right back at Mills — who caught the lead runner at home — for out number two, and Sabatini repeated the feat in the last at-bat to end the game.
"Of course I'm happy to get a win, but I can't help feeling a little disappointed in us only getting a split today," head coach Rachel Hartgrove said. "Both Tiffany and Josi pitched excellent, we just didn't get the run support we needed to take both games. To lose a game where our pitcher doesn't allow an earned run is really hard to accept. We'll just have to learn from today and hopefully be better next week."
Utah Valley, which has played just two games at home to this point in the season, now begins a stretch of 14 consecutive games to be played within the state of Utah. The Beehive State span gets underway Tuesday when the Wolverines visit Utah for a non-conference game in Salt Lake City. PCSC play then resumes the following Friday with CSU Bakersfield visiting Orem for a four-game tilt.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.