After finishing second in league play and earning a first-round bye, the Utah Valley University softball team will open WAC Tournament play on Thursday, May 10, against either No. 3 Seattle U or No. 6 UMKC at 1 p.m. MT, at the NM State Softball Complex in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
UVU finished its 2018 regular season with a 20-27 overall record and posted its best finish in program history since joining the WAC five seasons ago with a 10-4 league mark to earn the No. 2 seed for the postseason tournament for the second-consecutive season. The Wolverines won eight of their final nine conference games of the season to earn the two seed and the first-round bye. UVU swept both UMKC and CSU Bakersfield on the road down the stretch, as well as took its first series in program history over the regular-season champion New Mexico State Aggies to finish conference play in second place.
After sweeping three games at CSUB to end the conference season on April 27-28, UVU played four non-conference games last week. The Wolverines first dropped a UCCU Crosstown Clash to neighboring rival BYU, 11-3, before falling in two of three at Nevada. In Saturday's non-conference opener at the Mountain West Wolf Pack, Lyndsay Steverson drove in three runs on her way to helping the Wolverines pick up a 4-2 victory. Nevada then bounced back to take the nightcap of Saturday's twin bill, 5-2, and Sunday's finale by a score of 4-0.
Steverson led the Wolverines in the non-conference series at Nevada by smacking out two home runs and driving in a total of five runs. The sophomore second baseman hit .444 (4-for-9) for the series with two runs scored and a walk. Addie Jensen too pitched well for UVU on the weekend by going 1-1 with a 1.56 ERA in a pair of starts and 9.0 innings of action.
Brianna Moeller leads UVU on the year with a .361 batting average, 17 extra-base hits and 29 runs scored, while Steverson leads the way in the power numbers with eight home runs and 36 RBIs. The one-two punch of Jensen and Makayla Shadle paces the team in the circle, as Jensen holds a 10-10 record and a 3.34 ERA and Shadle is 6-9 with a team-best 3.19 ERA and three saves.
In WAC-only play, Steverson led UVU offensively with a .370 average, while Peyton Angulo batted .364 and Kaylee Bott hit .333 with a team-best tally of three homers and 13 runs batted in. Shadle led Utah Valley and the WAC in ERA and strikeouts in league play with a solid 1.26 earned-run average and 33 strikeouts. The senior right-hander also posted a 4-2 win-loss record and a save in 44.1 innings of action.
All-time in WAC Tournament play
Utah Valley enters the 2018 WAC Tournament with a 7-6 all-time mark in four previous conference tournament appearances. In their first season in the WAC, the fourth-seeded Wolverines reeled off four-straight wins in Seattle en route to winning UVU's first WAC Tournament title in program history and the school's first NCAA bid in any sport. Utah Valley then went 2-2 in 2015, 1-2 in 2016 and 0-2 last season.
Where to watch the WAC Tournament
Every game of the 2018 WAC Tournament will be streamed live on the WAC Digital Network and can also be viewed on OTT applications for Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku. The games will also be viewable on Facebook Live. Live stats will be available for each game by visiting WACstats.com.
About Seattle U
The third-seeded Redhawks enter the tournament with the best overall record of any team with a 33-21 season ledger, but they finished third in the league standings with a 10-5 conference clip. SU entered the final conference series of the season tied for first but lost two of three to New Mexico State to fall to third place. The Redhawks then bounced back nicely, however, with a 2-1 victory over Pac-12 foe Oregon State in non-conference action last week to enter the tournament on a high note.
Madison Cathcart leads SU and the WAC with a .428 average, and she ranks second in the league in homers with 18 and is tied for first in the conference with 55 RBIs on the season. The Seattle U pitching staff is anchored by three individuals, as Shianne Smith leads the way with a 9-2 record and a 2.28 ERA, Andie Larkins follows at 10-7 and a 2.84 earned-run average and Carley Nance too has had a solid season with a 14-12 record and a 2.97 ERA.
In the all-time series, Seattle U holds a 20-14 advantage over the Wolverines after taking two of three from UVU in Seattle to open conference play in late March. In WAC Tournament play, Utah Valley holds a 3-2 advantage, however, after going 2-0 against the Redhawks in 2015, 1-1 in 2016 and 0-1 last season.
Kansas City earned the No. 6 seed for the tournament after going 13-39 on the year and finishing in sixth place in the league standings with a 2-13 WAC record. The Kangaroos earned both of their WAC wins on the year over CSU Bakersfield, as UMKC took two of three in that series. After getting swept in their final league series of the year by Grand Canyon, the Roos then bounced back by taking one of three from South Dakota in non-conference action at home last week.
Ashlin O'Brien paces the Kangaroos on the year with a .333 average, while Morgan Byrn tops the team in the power numbers with eight homers and 31 runs batted in. Olivia Fluehr leads the way in the circle for UMKC with a 6-11 record and a 4.91 ERA.
After sweeping all three games in Kansas City earlier in the season, the Wolverines and Roos are deadlocked at 10-10 in the all-time series. UVU has won six of the last seven meetings against the Roos, but in WAC Tournament play Utah Valley and UMKC are knotted up at 1-1.
On deck for UVU
With a win on Thursday, the Wolverines will advance to Friday's semifinal contest that will be held at 1 p.m. MT. With an opening setback, UVU will drop to the consolation bracket and play again on Thursday at 7 p.m., in an elimination game.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.