Feb. 17, 2012
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Utah State softball opened play at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic with a pair of wins on Friday, earning a 12-9 win over Cal State Northridge and a 5-1 victory over UC Riverside. USU was fueled by an offensive outbreak in the top of the sixth inning to separate itself from the pesky Matadors. The Aggies then used strong pitching to take care of UC Riverside.
Cal State Northridge jumped out to an early lead on Utah State, when Mikayla Thielges hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. USU sophomore outfielder Kassy Uchida would respond by blasting her own two-run homer in the top of the second to tie the game up at 2-2. Uchida's second-inning home run was the first round-tripper of the 2012 season for the Aggies.
CSUN added two more runs in the bottom of the third inning when a ball was mishandled and a runner scored. The Matadors plated another with a bases loaded hit-by-pitch, giving them a 4-2 advantage through three frames.
Once again, Utah State responded by scoring four runs in the top of the fourth on one hit, taking advantage of two Northridge fielding miscues. Sophomore outfielder Christina Cummings came in as a pinch runner after sophomore catcher Samantha Miller drew a walk and promptly stole second and proceeded to third when sophomore outfielder Annie Thomas laid down a sacrifice bunt. Cummings came in to score on a hit by Uchida that was ineptly handled. Senior infielder Kelley Kaneshiro would deliver a two-RBI single with the bases loaded to once again take a lead over Cal State Northridge. USU scored its final run of the inning when junior designated player, Kali Cancelosi grounded a hit back towards the pitcher that allowed junior infielder Christine Thomsen to sneak across the plate. The Aggies took a two-run lead into the bottom of the fourth at 6-4.
CSUN tied the game by scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth to once again tie the ball game at, 6-6. One of the runs was scored when Thielges hit a solo shot over the right field wall for her second home run of the game.
Utah State exploded with an offensive outburst in the top half of the sixth inning, scoring six runs on five hits. Freshman outfielder Hailey Fronton led the way for USU as she made two plate appearances and cranked two doubles in both of her at-bats with one RBI and a run scored. Five batsmen tallied an RBI in the inning, including two from sophomore catcher Samantha Miller, while senior infielder Lindsey Marquez, Fronton, freshman outfielder Amburlyn Orozco and freshman infielder Taylor Serda notched one each.
The Matadors would not go quietly and looked to rally in the bottom of the seventh by scoring three runs and putting pressure on the Aggie defense to close out the game. Senior pitcher Dani Chaplin would silence the rally by inducing a grounder to the third base side that was handled for the final out. Junior starting pitcher Shelbi Tyteca, (2-0) captured her second win of the season, with the win.
Utah State had a short turn around and were back on the diamond to face another California foe in UC Riverside.
Thomsen followed the example set by Uchida in Friday's first game of the day and blasted a two-run home run in the top of the first inning for USU. Thomsen's homer scored Uchida who doubled to deep center in her first plate appearance of the game and jumped out to an early lead, 2-0.
Freshman catcher Jolene Koons added to the early lead in the top of the second with a rocket to right field that fell for a two-RBI triple, pushing the Aggies lead to, 4-0. Koons then came in to score another run for Utah State on an error UCR's second baseman when Thomsen hit a dribbler up the middle.
USU would not need to score again in the game but would rally around its starting pitcher, junior Mandy Harmon and trust the defense to hold the lead. The Highlanders scored a run in the bottom of the sixth when Dionee Anderson belted a double into left field that scored Brittany Kenny from first, shrinking the lead, 5-1.
The Aggie took the 5-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh, looking to close out the Highlanders and secure their second win of the day. Utah State was able to do just that as the defense fortified itself late in the game and closed out UC Riverside in the bottom half of the inning to secure the fourth win of the season for USU.
The Aggies starting pitcher, Harmon, (1-2) tallied her first win of the season against UC Riverside and threw all seven innings allowing one run and only five hits in the night game. Utah State will continue its play in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic on Saturday, Feb. 18, with a match-up against Big Ten foe Indiana. First pitch is set for 4:45 p.m. (MT).
USU softball fans can follow this weekends action live through the available Gametracker links on www.utahstateaggies.com homepage.
Fans can follow Utah State athletics, including softball, at http://twitter.com/USUAthletics.com.
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