Utah State’s softball team (3-6) continues its 2018 season in Corpus Christi, Texas, this weekend in a tournament hosted by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. USU will begin the tournament with two games on Friday, Feb. 23, against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3-5) at 9 a.m. (MT) and Omaha (5-5) at 11:30 a.m. USU will then face Texas Southern (1-1) and a rematch against the host-Islanders on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 9:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., respectively. The weekend will close with a second game against Texas Southern on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 8 a.m.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi welcomes three teams to its campus for a weekend of games. Utah State, Omaha, Texas Southern and the Islanders will each play five games against the various opponents. A video stream and live stats will both be available for each game. Links to each option will be posted on the Utah State softball social media pages prior to the contest. Social media updates will also be provided during all five games.
Tickets to this weekend’s games are sold on a game-by-game basis and are $5 in advance or $8 on the day of competition. Youth, seniors and military tickets receive a $1 discount. Tickets can be purchased at the TA&M-CC ticket office, over the phone, or at Chapman Field before the game.
APPROACHING A LANDMARK
In his fifth season as the head coach at Utah State, Steve Johnson is one away from the 100-win mark. Since taking over the Aggie program, Johnson has an overall record of 99-122. He is the second-winningest head coach in program history, behind Lloydene Searle. Searle was the USU head coach from 1981-97, compiling a 505-369-2 record.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
This weekend’s schedule features two first-time opponents for the Aggies, as Utah State will play its first games against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas Southern. These will mark the fourth and fifth first-time meetings for Utah State this season, as the Aggies played Rutgers, FIU and Buffalo for the first time earlier in the year.
DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS
This weekend will be the first of two trips Utah State will make to the Lone Star State this season. The Aggies will meet Louisiana Tech on a neutral field in McKinney, Texas, for two games on April 27 and 28. Utah State has not traveled to Texas since the 2013 season, when it played a WAC series at UT Arlington. All-time, Utah State is 29-29 against teams from Texas.
AT HOME ON THE ROAD
Three Utah State softball players hail from the state of Texas, in Kayla Fielder (League City), Stephanie Reed (Santa Fe) and Joely Williamson (Georgetown). Between the four teams competing this weekend, there are 40 players from Texas. Several of those players played club softball together.
Blake Miller, the head coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is Utah State assistant coach Nate Miller’s uncle.
FROM PEMBROKE TO CORPUS CHRISTI
Another connection this weekend comes between head coaches Steve Johnson and TA&M-CC’s Blake Miller. Miller played baseball at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, graduating in 2000. Johnson was the head softball coach there from 2003-08.
HIT AND RUN
In last week’s win over Buffalo, the Aggies scored a season-high 15 runs, while earning 19 hits. The 15 runs are the most since last season’s 17-5 win at Nevada on March 26. The 19 hits are the most since the Aggies put up 20 hits in a win against Valparaiso on March 11, 2016. Additionally, the 19 hits are the most by any team in the Mountain West this season.
A DRASTIC IMPROVEMENT
In the opening weekend of the 2018 season, Utah State batted .255 as a team. That average went up significantly after last weekend’s games in Las Vegas, as the Aggies now lead the Mountain West with a .311 team batting average.
HIT IT HARD
Senior third baseman Amee Aarhus had a big day in last weekend’s games at the Marucci Desert Classic. Against Buffalo, she tied her career with three hits, while scoring a career-best four runs and recording a career-high three RBIs. On the weekend, Aarhus had four extra-base hits, including two doubles and the first triple and home run of her career.
STEPPING UP TO THE MOUND
Senior pitcher Jordyn McCracken had her chance to shine last weekend, pitching three complete games, the first of her career. McCracken threw a total of 20.0 innings on the weekend, posting a 1-2 record.
RBIS FOR RILEY
Sophomore outfielder Riley Plogger is leading the Aggies in the RBI column this season, with 16 so far. She currently ranks second in the Mountain West and 16th nationally. With her two hits against Buffalo, Plogger brought in five runs, which tied her career high.
WAIT FOR YOUR PITCH
Heading into the weekend in Las Vegas, junior catcher Bailey Lewis was hitless on the season. That stat quickly changed, as she batted .750 (6-for-8) in the games against Buffalo and Hawai’i. Lewis was 4-of-5 against the Bulls and 2-of-3 against the Rainbow Wahine. Her four hits against Buffalo tie the school record for single-game hits.
TRAPPED AT FIRST
Junior first baseman Bailee Trapp is the top defensive player for the Aggies and the Mountain West this season, tallying 81 putouts. Trapp recorded a career-high 17 putouts in the loss to Hawai’i, the most of any player in the conference in a game this year.
GIVING THEM THE RUN-AROUND
In the nine games this season, sophomore outfielder Riley Plogger leads the Aggies and the Mountain West with five home runs. Her five out-of-the-park hits rank sixth nationally. Plogger has already matched her season total from her freshman campaign in 2017.
Utah State has done most of its scoring in the first inning of games this season, scoring 10 runs in its first at-bats of the season. The Aggies are 3-2 when scoring in the first inning.
THE HOT STREAKS
Five Utah State players have had hitting streaks of five or more games this season. Sophomore outfielder Riley Plogger had a least one hit in the first eight games of the season. Currently, senior third baseman Amee Aarhus and senior outfielder Jazmin Clarke have had a hit in the last six games.
Picking up right where they left off last year, Utah State has continued its trend of stealing bases, with a Mountain West-best 20 so far. Senior outfielder Jazmin Clarke leads the team and the conference with 10 stolen bases on 10 attempts, ranking sixth nationally.
Utah State was picked fourth in this season’s Mountain West preseason poll. San Diego State was picked to finish first in the conference, claiming 63 points and seven of the league’s first-place votes. San José State followed, earning the two remaining first-place votes and 57 total points. Fresno State was slated third, just ahead of the Aggies with 44 points, while USU took the fourth-place spot with 43 points. Nevada follows in fifth with 37 points, with Colorado State in sixth place with 30 points. Boise State (27 points), UNLV (14 points) and New Mexico (nine points) rounded out the 2018 preseason poll.
BEST OF THE CONFERENCE
Utah State returns two all-Mountain West honorees from last season in sophomore pitcher Kellie White and sophomore outfielder Riley Plogger. White earned first-team all-conference honors, becoming the first USU freshman to earn first-team honors since Victoria Saucedo did so in 2014, and is just the sixth freshman in program history to do so. Against conference opponents, White posted a 3.25 ERA and a 9-4 individual record. Plogger was named to the all-Mountain West second team, leading the Aggies with a .367 batting average and 14 RBIs in conference play.
THE LAST TIME OUT
Utah State posted a 1-3 record at the UNLV-hosted Marucci Desert Classic last weekend with a 9-5 loss to Seattle, a 12-4 five-inning loss to Florida International, a 15-10 win against Buffalo and a 3-1 loss to Hawai’i. Senior Jordyn McCracken pitched three complete games during the weekend, while freshman Stephanie Reed threw the entirety of the other. Together, the two allowed 45 hits and 35 runs, while striking out eight batters and walking another eight. At the plate, junior catcher Bailey Lewis batted .667 (6-of-9) over three games. Senior third baseman Amee Aarhus and sophomore outfielder Riley Plogger each scored five runs, while Plogger tallied nine RBIs. In all, the Aggies hit .376 (44-of-117), including five doubles, one triple and six home runs. Defensively, junior first baseman Bailee Trapp had 41 putouts, while freshman shortstop Joely Williamson added 11 assists.
Utah State will have next week off before returning to non-conference competition. Taking advantage of a trip to the area, the Aggies will play a single game at Pacific on Wednesday, March 7, at 5 p.m. (MT). Games will return to tournament format as Utah State plays in the Aggie Classic, hosted by UC Davis. USU will open against the host Aggies on Thursday, March 8, at 4 p.m. The Aggies will play a doubleheader against Valparaiso and Northern Colorado on Friday, March 9, at Noon and 2:15 p.m., respectively. The weekend will conclude on Saturday, March 10, with rematches against the Bears and Aggies at 10 a.m. and Noon.
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