In a contest where neither team recorded a hit until the sixth inning, Utah Valley University softball found itself on the wrong end of a 2-1 extra-inning pitcher's duel to North Dakota State on Sunday at the Sportco Kick Off Classic in Las Vegas.
With the international tiebreaker in effect in extras, the Wolverines (1-4) pushed across the first run of the game in the top of the eighth inning to take a 1-0 lead. NDSU (2-3), which has reached the NCAA Tournament in eight of the past nine seasons, responded with a two-out hit in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game at 1-1 and send the contest to the ninth. In the ninth, UVU looked primed to score as it loaded the bases with nobody out. North Dakota State's Jacquelyn Sertic managed to retire the next three hitters in order, however, to escape the jam. The Bison then put the game away with a one-out walk-off hit from Stephanie Soriano.
Utah Valley junior starter Addie Jensen (1-2) was the tough-luck loser in the contest after giving up just three hits and no earned runs in 8.1 innings of work. She also took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and finished with three strikeouts, only one walk and allowed just a total of four base runners to reach base in the ballgame.
"I was just trying to hit my spots today, and the defense did an amazing job of backing me up. Basia did a great job behind the dish, and it was just a fun game," Jensen said. "It was just one of those games where the ball just didn't fall in when we needed it to. But you can't be mad about these types of games because we did a nice job of fighting hard and competing throughout the ballgame."
Both starting pitchers shined in the early stages, as each faced the minimum through five full innings. UVU's Jensen and NDSU's Sertic seemingly matched each other pitch-for-pitch, and Sertic struck out an impressive tally of 12 Wolverines through her first five innings of work, which included striking out the side in the first and fifth innings.
North Dakota State's Maddie Hansen was the game's first base runner in the bottom of fifth when she worked a leadoff walk. Her replacement, pinch-runner Jaime Barta, was quickly erased off the base paths, however, when Zoe Stavrou hit into a double play to end the threat.
In the top of the sixth, the Wolverines broke up Sertic's no-hit bid with back-to-back singles. Kaylee Bott was the first to strike with a leadoff single to left, and Skylar Cook immediately followed with a bunt single to put two on with nobody out. Kirsten Andersen then bunted both into scoring position, but NDSU's Sertic managed to escape the jam by retiring pinch-hitters Madison Sisco and Peyton Angulo to keep the game scoreless.
NDSU then recorded its first hit of the ballgame in the last of the sixth when Julio Luciano dropped in a one-out single to center, but Jensen retired the next two hitters she faced to keep the contest deadlocked at 0-0.
Both starters continued to shine by retiring the side in order in the seventh to send the game to extra innings.
With Brianna Moeller leading from second thanks to the international tiebreaker in the top of the eighth, Bott delivered an RBI single to right to plate the first run of the ballgame and give UVU a 1-0 lead. The lead didn't hold up, however, as the Bison answered with a two-out RBI single from Montana DeCamp in the bottom of the inning to send the game to the ninth.
In the ninth, UVU quickly loaded the bases thanks to a runner being awarded second base via tiebreaker rule, an error and a bunt single with nobody out. NDSU's Sertic then managed to pitch out of the jam by getting Basia Query to fly out, as well as striking out Lyndsay Steverson and Moeller.
The Bison then manufactured the winning run in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a one-out RBI hit from Soriano.
Reigning first-team all-Summit League performer Sertic (1-2) earned her first win of the year after allowing just four hits and no earned runs while striking out an impressive tally of 16 batters in 9.0 innings of work.
Bott led UVU offensively in the ballgame by going 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Cook and Abbie Tuttle recorded a hit apiece.
The Wolverines now return to Utah for a doubleheader with in-state foe Southern Utah on Sunday, Feb. 25, in St. George. The games are set for 1 and 3 p.m. at Dixie State. UVU enters play having won six of the last seven against the Thunderbirds, including an 8-2 victory over SUU at the Sportco Kick Off Classic this weekend.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.