OGDEN, Utah -
Utah State softball put an emphatic end on its five-game losing streak Tuesday, as it opened the National Invitational Softball Championship (NISC) with an 8-0 five-inning win over San Diego in a game played at Weber State.
Wednesday marked Utah State's first appearance in a postseason game since 1993. However, this was the Aggies' first postseason win since the Regional round of the 1984 NCAA Tournament. USU is now 22-17 all-time in its postseason games.
Junior third baseman Amee Aarhus, freshman outfielder Riley Plogger and junior catcher Brina Buttacavoli all had a perfect day at the plate, going 2-for-2. Senior first baseman Paxton Provost was tops defensively with six putouts. Freshman pitcher Kellie White made the start for the Aggies, throwing 4.1 innings before being relieved by sophomore Katie Schroeder. Together, the three allowed four hits while striking out three batters en route to the combined shutout.
"This is really big for the progress we continually want to make. We had some opportunities at the end of the regular season and we didn't play our best, so this is a great rebound situation for us. It's a chance to learn how the postseason works and everything we have to go through with it. This is a good experience for us," said USU head coach Steve Johnson. "Today's offense showed what we did a lot this year and how we won a lot of our games. It was good to see them come out and really execute well offensively today."
With the win, Utah State improves to 33-16 on the season. San Diego falls to 22-23 with the loss.
The Aggies had a strong start all the way around, from the very beginning of the game, retiring the first three batters in order. In the bottom of the inning, Aarhus got the offense going with a lead-off single to center. She then stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. Senior second baseman Victoria Saucedo then earned the first RBI of the day with a single to right field to bring Aarhus home.
The USU defense put out the first batter of the second inning, before the Toreros put up their first hit of the day. However, another pair of outs left her stranded. The bottom of the inning picked up where the Aggies left off, as Plogger led-off with a single to the shortstop. After one out, Buttacavoli drilled a double to right field to score Plogger. Sophomore outfielder Mia Maher then had a bunt single of her own, while Aarhus loaded the bases after reaching on a catcher's interference call at the plate. Clarke followed with a single to left field, which scored another pair of runs. After one more out, Provost added a single to right field, bringing Aarhus home. San Diego made its first pitching change then, but senior shortstop Sarina Jaramillo reached on an error, plating a run from Clarke and extending USU's lead to six. During the next at-bat, Provost was caught stealing third, ending the inning.
After allowing just one more base runner in the top of the third, the Aggies continued their scoring streak. Plogger opened the USU half of the inning with a triple to center field. Senior designated player Sydney Hart took first after being hit by a pitch, with senior Kylie-Rose Dickson entering to pinch run for her. Buttacavoli then added her second hit of the day with a single to right field. She was put out trying to stretch the hit into a double, but Plogger was able to cross the plate in the meantime. Aarhus then hit a double to deep center field to score Dickson, giving the Aggies their 8-0 lead.
Both teams made quick work of the fourth inning, as the Toreros picked up one hit before putting the Aggies down in order after a second pitching change. San Diego again earned one hit in the top of the fifth, but the NCAA's eight-run rule was enforced and the game was called once the Toreros were unable to score.
On the day, Utah State tallied 10 hits to San Diego's four. The Toreros finished the game with two errors, while the Aggies had their fifth-straight clean defensive game.
NISC action will continue on Wednesday, May 16. The Aggies will play at 1 p.m. taking on the winner of this afternoon's game between Boise State and Weber State.
"The good thing is we're familiar with both teams. We just played Weber State a couple of weeks ago, and we see Boise State every year," Johnson said. "We have to execute and continue to do what we do in each at-bat of each inning of each game. That's where our focus is right now. We want to concentrate on winning each pitch and enjoying the process."
Fans can follow the Aggie softball program on Twitter, @USUSoftball, on Facebook at /USUSoftball or on Instagram, @ususoftball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter, @USUAthletics, Facebook at /USUAthletics and on Instagram, @USUAthletics.
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