Fresh off a seven-game road trip, the Utah Valley University softball team returns to Orem to begin a stretch of five games in five days when it hosts BYU at Wolverine Field on Tuesday. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. MT.
Tuesday marks the first of three meetings between the cross-town rivals — separated by only five miles worth of University Parkway — and is the only game to be played in Orem this season. The Wolverines (11-22, 4-2 WAC) and Cougars (16-20, 2-1 WCC) will meet again in early May for a doubleheader at BYU's Gail Miller Field.
Last season, UVU and BYU met for the first time as conference foes when they faced off in a four-game Pacific Coast Softball Conference series at Wolverine Field. Utah Valley split the series 2-2, winning games two and three. All but one game, a 6-4 Wolverine victory in game two, were decided by just a single run while two of the games extended into extra innings. In fact, even UVU's 6-4 victory came down to the wire as Debra Lovell belted a two-run walk-off homer to break a 4-4 deadlock in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Lovell enters this busy week of play off one of her best offensive performances of the season last week. Over four games, the senior went 7-for-13 (.558) with a team-high seven RBIs and three home runs. Two of those homers came in UVU's come-from-behind 13-12 victory over Seattle U in the WAC series finale, helping her earn her first WAC Hitter of the Week award on Monday.
Freshman Brittney Vansway turned in a strong week as well, batting .571 over the four games to run her team-leading overall batting average to .346. Fellow freshmen Hailey Kofler and Brianna Gatlin come next at .342 and .323, respectively. Kofler leads the Wolverines with five home runs on the season, while Gatlin has driven in a team-best 24 RBIs.
The Cougars come into the week having won five of their last six games. Opening West Coast Conference play on the road over the weekend, BYU went 2-1 in a three-game series with San Diego. Freshman Sydney Broderick, who leads the Cougars in batting at .352, drove in four runs over the weekend.
Senior Katie Manuma paces BYU in RBIs with 26 on the season to go along with a team-high six home runs. McKenzie St. Clair, a freshman, has 22 RBIs to her name as well as a .330 batting average. In the circle, senior Tori Almond leads the Cougar pitching staff with a 2.72 ERA and a record of 3-5.
Following Tuesday's contest, Utah Valley will have Wednesday off before playing four games over the final four days of the week. UVU will host Santa Clara in a non-conference game Thursday before starting a three-game WAC series with Grand Canyon on Friday. The GCU series will conclude with a doubleheader Saturday afternoon.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.