Despite getting home runs from Lyndsay Steverson and Caragh Morris, the second-seeded Utah Valley University softball team found itself on the wrong end of a 7-4 decision to the sixth-seeded UMKC Kangaroos in UVU's WAC Tournament opener on Thursday afternoon at the NM State Softball Complex in Las Cruces.
The victory over the Wolverines (20-28) marked Kansas City's (15-39) second-straight of the tournament, as it previously knocked off No. 3 Seattle U on Wednesday.
After receiving a first-round bye after posting their best regular-season finish in WAC play by placing second with a 10-4 league record, the Wolverines struck first in the ballgame with a run in the last of the second inning to take a 1-0 advantage. Following a walk by Madison Sisco and a double to left center from Kaylee Bott, the 2017 WAC Freshman of the Year Morris drove Sisco home with a sacrifice fly to right.
Utah Valley's lead didn't last long, however, as the Kangaroos answered back with four runs of their own in the top of the third to take a 4-1 lead. Following a leadoff single, a well-placed bunt and a fielder's choice, Kansas City's Kelsey Goodwin drove them all home with a triple into the right field corner to give UMKC its first lead of the game at 3-1. The Roos then tacked on another run on an RBI double to left from Olivia Fluehr to extend their lead to 4-1.
The Wolverines then bounced back in the last of the third thanks to a two-out, two-run home run from first-team all-WAC performer Steverson to make it a one-run game at 4-3. With two outs and nobody on for the Wolverines in the frame, the WAC Freshman of the Year Peyton Angulo started the two-out rally with a single through the left side. Steverson then followed by blasting out her team-best ninth home run of the year to left to pull UVU within a run.
The Roos didn't waste any time answering back with a leadoff fourth-inning solo home run from Lia Lombardini to extend UMKC's lead to 5-3. Kansas City then tacked on another run in the frame thanks to a UVU error to make it 6-3.
The Roos added another unearned run in the sixth to extend their lead to 7-3.
Fluehr came on in relief for UMKC in the circle and was very good, as she didn't allow a hit or a run in 3.2 innings of impressive relief work. Fluehr's first hit that she gave up was a solo no-doubt home run to deep left off the bat of Morris in the bottom of the seventh inning. Morris' big fly brought the Wolverines to within three runs at 7-4. After a walk by Linnah Rebolledo and a fielder's choice by Brianna Moeller, Fluehr escaped the jam by getting UVU pinch-hitter Taleigh Williams to fly out to end the ballgame.
Fluehr picked up the win in relief for the Roos to improve to 8-10 on the year, while Addie Jensen (10-11) took the loss for the Wolverines after giving up four runs in three innings of work.
Morris and Steverson led the Wolverines at the plate by homering and driving in two runs apiece. Morris finished 1-for-2, while Steverson went 1-for-3. Cook too added a 1-for-3 performance with her 23rd stolen base of the season, as the junior center fielder is now a perfect 23-for-23 in stolen bases this season. First-team all-WAC selection Goodwin paced the Roos by going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and a run scored.
With the setback, the Wolverines now drop to the consolation bracket and will face No. 5 CSU Bakersfield in an elimination game on Thursday. The Wolverines and Roadrunners will take the field in the fourth and final game of the day at the NM State Softball Complex at 7 p.m. MT. The winner will advance to play again on Friday at 4 p.m., while the loser will go home.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.