Lauren Frailey Spendlove earned her first save of the season en route to helping Utah Valley University softball hold on to defeat the first-place New Mexico State Aggies, 9-7, in the series opener on Friday afternoon at Wolverine Softball Field.
With the tying runners on base and just one away in the top of the seventh, the reigning WAC Pitcher of the Year Frailey Spendlove retired the next two hitters she faced to help the Wolverines record their first conference victory over NM State in 13 chances.
UVU improves to 15-22 overall and 6-3 in league play with the victory, while the Aggies drop to 23-19 on the season and 8-2 in WAC play. The victory marks Utah Valley's fifth-straight win.
"I don't know if we've ever beaten New Mexico State before so this was definitely a big win for us. This was truly a team effort, as everyone performed well," senior right-handed pitcher Frailey Spendlove said. "The save is honestly my favorite stat because it takes guts. I was a little nervous, but I went out there and took a deep breath and told myself that we have to win this game. I also tried to remember that we've done this before, and my defense did a nice job of picking me up."
The Wolverine offense banged out nine runs on nine hits on their way to recording the victory. Brianna Moeller and Skylar Cook each went 2-for-3 from the top of the lineup with five combined runs scored, while Lyndsay Steverson went 1-for-3 with a three-run home run. Peyton Angulo posted a 1-for-2 outing with two runs batted in and two runs scored, and Basia Query went 1-for-4 with what proved to be the winning two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After NM State's Kelsey Horton blasted out a solo homer in the top of the first inning, Utah Valley responded with a three-run home run of its own off the bat of Steverson to take a 3-1 lead. Steverson's three-run round tripper drove home Cook and Angulo who had reached earlier in the frame via a respective single and fielder's choice.
Following a scoreless second, the Aggies then answered with two runs in the third to tie the game at 3-3. Off a Horton single, NMSU's Rachel Rodriguez managed to come in to score on a UVU throwing error to make it 3-2. Victoria Castro then followed for the Aggies with an RBI single to deadlock the score at 3-3.
The Wolverines then loaded the bases in the last of the third thanks to a pair of NMSU miscues, but NM State's Kayla Green escaped the jam unscathed thanks to an L-7-4 double play to keep the score tied up at 3-all.
UVU again loaded the bases in the fourth inning, and this time broke through with three more runs to take a 6-3 advantage. With the bases full and one away, Taleigh Williams delivered with a pinch-hit RBI single to right to drive in Abbie Tuttle and give the Wolverines a 4-3 lead. Angulo then followed with a two-run double to left center to give UVU a three-run cushion.
New Mexico State didn't waste any time responding, however, as it answered back with three runs of its own in the top of the fifth to once again tie the game at 6-6. With Horton on first, Castro drove them both home with a two-run round tripper to left to make it 6-5. With two runners later in scoring position, NMSU's Caity Szczesny drove home the tying run from third with a sacrifice fly to left to make it 6-6.
Thanks to a hit batter, a bunt single from Cook and a walk, the Wolverines again loaded the bases in the last of the sixth with one away. NMSU reliver Samaria Diaz then struck out Steverson for the second out, but UVU later took the lead on a wild pitch as Moeller came in from third to take a 7-6 advantage. Query immediately followed with a clutch two-run double off the left-field wall to extend UVU's advantage to 9-6.
The Aggies drove home a run in the top of the seventh and had the tying runners on base with just one away, but Frailey Spendlove retired the next two hitters she faced with some help from her defense to put the game away. Shortstop Kirsten Andersen made a nice play on a pop-up to shallow left field for the second out of the inning, and third baseman Kaylee Bott followed by recording the final out by fielding a sharply hit high chopper to third and throwing across the diamond to Angulo.
Makayla Shadle (4-7) earned the win in relief for the Wolverines after giving up just two runs on three hits in two-plus innings of action, while Frailey Spendlove came on in the seventh and recorded the final three outs of the ballgame to earn her first save. NMSU's Diaz (3-9) was tagged with the loss after surrendering three runs on two hits in 2.0 innings of relief.
With the win, the Wolverines improve to 3-17 in the all-time series against NM State.
UVU looks to take the series on Saturday, as the series will conclude with a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. at Wolverine Field. The contest will mark Senior Day for Utah Valley, as eight Wolverines seniors will be honored following the conclusion of the twin bill. These games will mark UVU's final home games of the 2018 season.
"Senior Day will be extra special for us this year, as we get to play a very good team in New Mexico State," Frailey Spendlove said. "They are going to come out ready to play and ready to fight, so we can't sit back and expect to win. We have to come out hungry for it, and I'm going to give it my all."
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.