Feb. 10, 2012
ATHENS, GA -- - Utah State softball team defeated Atlantic Coast Conference power house, North Carolina State in dramatic fashion, 6-5, in Friday's season-opener. Senior Lindsey Marquez completed a late game rally with a walk-off double blast that completed the Aggies seventh-inning rally.
Utah State is now 24-13 in season openers and earned a win in the first meeting between Utah State and NC State.
In game one the Wolfpack struck early in the first inning when Bethaney Wells singled up the middle to score Landon Warren. USU tightened the belt defensively, closing out the inning without allowing another run and forced North Carolina State back to dugout with the bases loaded.
USU found itself in a defensive struggle in the second game of the day as it took on the Army. The Aggies fell to the Black Knights, 3-2. This the was the season opener for Army.
USU's sophomore outfielder Kassy Uchida picked up right where she left off last season, in her first at-bat of the season she fired off a rocket to deep left field for a double and the first scoring threat of the year for the Aggies. Freshman outfielder Hailey Fronton and junior first baseman Christine Thomsen both drew walks from North Carolina State's starting pitcher, Morgan Peeler. Utah State could not capitalize on the early opportunity by making three straight outs and stranding two runners on base in scoring position.
NC State added to its lead in the top of the third inning when Leah Jones homered to left off Aggies starting pitcher junior Mandy Harmon, scoring three runs for the Wolfpack and a 4-0 edge. Utah State would respond later that inning by picking off Tate Chelsea while she was attempting to steal home to avoid surrendering another run in the frame.
USU would answer back in the bottom of the third with a run of its own, to keep the deficit in reach for the squad. Uchida singled up the middle to once again leadoff an inning with a hit in the top spot. Fronton advanced to second when Thomsen was hit by a pitch, putting a runner in scoring position for the Aggies. Junior Kali Cancelosi would convert on the opportunity by lifting a single shot over third and down the line that would score Fronton and put Utah State on the board, but still trailing, 4-1.
After a three-up and three-down top of the fourth, USU would threaten against in the bottom of the frame by advancing freshman Taylor Serda to third with Uchida looming at the plate. However, Serda would be picked off by catcher Christy Grant to end the inning and neutralize the threat.
The Aggies once again held firm defensively in the top of fifth and looked to continue to close the gap in the bottom half of the fifth. Fronton would once again force the action by swatting a one out single for Utah State that was promptly followed up by a Thomsen walk that put Fronton in scoring position. Senior Kelley Kaneshiro pitch hit for sophomore Allison Lenzora and drew another walk to load the bases. Fronton would go on to score from third on a wild pitch to pull within two, before Bailee Tyteca flied out to right field to end the inning. The action reached a fevered pitch entering the seventh inning as North Carolina State put two runners in scoring position with only one out and were looking to distance themselves from USU. Grant would push a run across the plate with a sacrifice fly to center that would increase NC State's advantage to three, with runner lurking on third. Junior pitcher Shelbi Tyteca dug in and denied the Wolfpack from scoring another run by striking out Sara Lippard to end the inning.
The Aggies trailed, 5-2, as they entered the bottom of the seventh inning and preparing to take their final at-bats of the game. Fronton stayed composed and drew a lead off walk to start the frame for Utah State. Thomsen would deliver when her team needed her most with a deep double to left that would advance Fronton to third. The rally was on for USU when Cancelosi hit a clutch single to left center off relief pitcher Emily Weiman, that scored Fronton and advanced Thomsen to third. Freshman Amburlyn Orozco entered the game as a pinch runner for Cancelosi and would advance to second on a Kaneshiro ground out. Tyteca came up to bat and was able to get on base by an error and advance to second on the throw by North Carolina State's second-baseman Toni Ann Williford, which allowed Thomsen to score.
With two runners in scoring position and still down 5-4, junior Tatem Day walked to the plate looking to extend the rally. Day would send a fly ball to left that drifted just foul and was caught for an out. Down to their last out the Aggies sent junior Lindsey Marquez to the plate looking to convert on the opportunity created late in the game. Marquez fell behind in the count, with one ball and two strikes, down to her final strike Marquez delivered with a two-run double walk-off blast to center field. Marquez's walk-off hit capped a four run seventh inning.
Utah State finished with seven hits and no errors in their first game of the year. NC State out hit USU, with nine but committed one error. This was the first meeting between these two teams in softball. Shelbi Tyteca was credited with her first win of the season, allowing two hits and one earned run, in three innings pitched. The Aggies also drew eight walks, while only surrendering four to the Wolfpack.
In the second game of the day, neither team was able to cross the plate until Army scored in the bottom of the fourth inning when Amanda Nguyan hit a dribbler up the middle of the field that scored Racheal Duval, giving Army its first lead of the game at, 1-0.
Utah State would respond in the top of the fifth inning by drawing back-to-back walks. Sophomore Annie Thomas forced the action by hitting a ball towards third and reach on an error, and advanced to second on the throw, which allowed freshman Jolene Koons to score and even the game at, 1-1. Serda advanced to third on the play and kept two runners in scoring position for USU. With two outs, Serda was able to score from third on a wild pitch that got away from the catcher, Duval. The wild pitch gave the Aggies their first lead of the game but were unable to add to it.
The Black Knights mounted a comeback in the bottom of the fifth with two outs, when they were able to load the bases. Ali Cleinmark played the hero for Army as she hit a roller to third that was mishandled by Utah State and allowed the tying run to score. USU would surrender the go-ahead run to Army on a play eerily similar to the play just before that allowed the Black Knights to score the tie the game.
The Aggies looked to create another rally late in the game, like they did earlier in the day against North Carolina State, but were unable to gain any traction against the defensive minded Army squad, falling 3-2, to the Big East foe.
Junior Mandy Harmon was charged with the loss after taking over for Shelbi Tyteca in the fifth inning. Harmon pitched 1.1 innings and surrendered two unearned runs but did not allow a hit. Utah State finished the game with two hits, while Army managed seven hits against USU. Fronton also legged out the first stolen base of the season for the Aggies.
Utah State (1-1, 0-0 WAC) will play two games Saturday in its second day of action in the Red & Black Showcase hosted by Georgia. USU will face Big East foe St. John's in the first game of the day, with first pitch scheduled for 7 a.m. (MT). The turn around for the Aggies will be short as they are set to play the host team, No. 14 Georgia immediately after their match-up with SJU, with first pitch for that game is scheduled for 9 a.m.. Fans can follow live action through the Gametracker, link on the main page of utahstateaggies.com.
Fans can follow Utah State athletics, including softball, at http://twitter.com/USUAthletics.com.
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