Seeded fourth, the Utah Valley University softball team kicks off the 2014 WAC Tournament when it takes on fifth-seeded Bakersfield in the tournament's opening game Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. MT at host Seattle U's Logan Field.
The winner of Thursday's opener advances to take on top-seeded New Mexico State on Thursday at 3 p.m. MT, while the loser drops to face the loser of No. 2 Kansas City and No. 3 SU in a win-or-go-home contest at 5:30.
"We were able to take three from Bakersfield at their place at the beginning of conference, but they have gotten hot since then and made a lot of improvements," UVU head coach Nikki Palmer said. "We know we can't take them lightly and will need to be ready to go. We've been working hard on our visualizing and focusing on our goal of going four-and-out for a WAC championship."
The Wolverines (14-40, 5-9 WAC) played a pair of games at BYU on Tuesday night, dropping both ends of the doubleheader, 7-2 and 11-8. Meanwhile, the Roadrunners (15-38-1, 4-11 WAC) have not played since their conference season finale on April 26, falling 1-0 to UMKC.
Senior Debra Lovell, who was announced as a first team All-WAC selection Wednesday morning, went a combined 4-for-7 with a home run and four RBIs in Provo on Tuesday night. She now has 27 RBIs on the season, nudging out freshman Brianna Gatlin's 26 for the team lead. Pitcher and fellow senior Josi Summers made a brief cameo for the Wolverines at BYU, allowing one earned run on two hits while striking out four in 1.2 innings of relief. She is expected to make her 31st start of the season against Bakersfield on Thursday.
CSUB is led by Karissa Veiga's .315 batting average, while Amy Ricciardi and Jessica Castaneda each boast a team-high 21 RBIs on the season. Ricciardi, who is batting .304 this season, and Veiga are the only `Runners with an average better than .300. In the circle, Kelsie Monroe is 9-19 through 32 starts this season. She has earned more than twice as many starts as any other pitcher on the CSUB staff this year. Monroe owns a 3.21 ERA and has nearly a 2.0 strikeout/walk ratio.
Veiga was a second team all-conference selection along with teammate Madison Bundy, who hit .275 with 16 RBIs this season.
The Wolverines faced Monroe twice when the two teams met in the WAC season opener on March 28-29. UVU won all three games of the series, handing Monroe a loss in the series opener and again in the finale. Utah Valley outscored the `Runners, 17-8, in the three-game sweep.
Freshman Brittney Vansway and sophomore Dynasty Lauvai each enjoyed considerable success in this season's meeting with CSUB. Vansway, a second team All-WAC selection, went 6-of-9 for the series with a home run and five RBIs. Meanwhile, Lauvai was 5-for-9 with another homer and five more runs driven in. As a team, UVU batted .277 for the series while the Wolverine pitching staff held an ERA of 2.33. Summers went 2-0 with 12 strikeouts against just three walks while Kelsey Lawton went 1-0 with a 1.91 ERA.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.