The Utah Valley University softball team hung right with the 2017 Big Ten Champion and 16th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers in the season opener Friday afternoon at the Sportco Kick Off Classic in Las Vegas, but in the end fell to the Gophers by a score of 8-3.
UVU (0-1) managed to record three runs on eight hits in the 2018 opener, while Minnesota (2-0) finished with eight runs on nine hits.
Senior Kirsten Andersen led the Wolverines at the plate by going 2-for-4 with a run batted in, while Basia Query too finished 2-for-4 with a run scored and newcomer Brianna Moeller finished with a 1-for-4 outing with a triple and two RBIs.
With the game still scoreless and deadlocked in a pitcher's duel, the Wolverines looked to have an opportunity to score in the bottom of the third when Skylar Cook led off the inning by reaching on an error. She then stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Karly Bunderson to put her on third with just one away. After a walk by Lyndsay Steverson and a stolen base from pinch-runner Abbie Tuttle, Minnesota's Amber Fiser then managed to hold runners on second and third by retiring Taleigh Williams and Madison Sisco to escape the jam.
The Wolverines then threated again in the fourth by getting another runner in scoring position with two away, but they couldn't manage to push the run home as the game remained scoreless entering the fifth inning.
The Golden Gophers were the first to get on the board in the fifth when they managed to push three runs across to take a 3-0 advantage. Two of the three runs were unearned, however, as UVU committed a defensive miscue in the frame.
Minnesota then tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth to extend its lead to 5-0. The 2017 Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Year Kendyl Lindaman belted out a solo home run to left center for the first run and the second came in on an error.
Utah Valley then bounced back in the last of the sixth by scoring three runs to make it a 5-3 contest. With runners on first and second, Moeller drove them both home with a two-run triple to right-center to make it a three-run deficit. Andersen then immediately followed by driving home Moeller with an RBI single to make it 5-3. The Wolverines then continued to threaten in the frame by later loading the bases with two away, but Minnesota's Fiser managed to strike out Williams to end the threat.
The ranked Gophers then put the game away in the seventh by tacking on a trio of insurance runs to make it 8-3.
UVU newcomer Addie Jensen (0-1) pitched well for the Wolverines in the contest by allowing just one hit and no runs into the fifth inning against the Big Ten power. She ended up going the distance in her first appearance in a Wolverine uniform and surrendered just nine hits and five earned runs. Minnesota's Fiser (1-0) picked up her first win of the year after allowing three runs on eight hits in the contest.
The Wolverines continue play at the Sportco Kick Off Classic on Friday by taking on Creighton in the late game at 11:00 p.m. MT. Live stats will be available. The tournament then continues on Saturday, as the Wolverines take on the host UNLV Rebels at 7 p.m. and in-state foe Southern Utah at 9:15 p.m.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.