The 2014 WAC Tournament Champion Utah Valley University softball team heads to Las Cruces, New Mexico, this weekend to begin its second season of league play in the Western Athletic Conference. The Wolverines and preseason favorite Aggies begin a three-game series Friday at 6 p.m., at the NM State Softball Complex.
Following Friday's opening tilt, the two teams conclude the weekend series with a doubleheader on Saturday. Saturday's first game starts at 4 p.m., while the nightcap and series finale is slated to begin at 6 p.m.
Live stats for all three games can be followed by visiting NM State StatBroadcast, while live video will be available for Saturday's second game only at NM State’s website.
The Wolverines enter the weekend series off a pair of setbacks to No. 2 Oregon in Eugene on Wednesday night. In a rematch of the 2014 NCAA Eugene Regional, the Ducks pulled away late in game one as they went on to take the opener over the Wolverines, 9-1, in six innings. UVU then outhit the second-ranked team in the nation, 6-3, in the second game of the twin bill but couldn't score, however, as UO completed the doubleheader sweep with a 3-0 victory.
Sophomore second baseman Brittney Vansway supplied the offense for the Wolverines in the opening game as she opened up the scoring with a second-inning leadoff home run. With the round tripper, Vansway is now third on the team in long balls with five. Freshman Taleigh Williams then led UVU at the plate in game two as she went 2-for-3 with a double.
Three Utah Valley pitchers combined to limit the potent Duck offense to just three hits in the nightcap of Wednesday's twin bill. Junior Kailey Christensen started the contest and took the loss after giving up three runs on just two hits in 2.2 innings, while sophomore Kelsey Lawton and freshman Kellee Ramsey combined to not allow a run during the final 3.1 innings of relief. Lawton pitched two innings of hitless relief, while Ramsey gave up just one hit in 1 1/3 innings.
Sophomore and reigning WAC Pitcher of the Week Bailey Moore leads the Wolverines in the circle on the season as she enters the weekend with an 8-12 record and a 4.51 ERA. She was tabbed the league's pitcher of the week after no-hitting neighboring rival BYU last Saturday. Moore leads the league in innings pitched (135.0), starts (21) and appearances (29). Fellow sophomore Brianna Gatlin leads Utah Valley at the plate as she is hitting .413 with a team-best seven home runs and 19 RBIs. Gatlin entered the week with a 16-game hitting streak but had it halted at No. 2 Oregon on Wednesday.
UVU finished fifth in its first season of play in the WAC last year with a 5-9 record before getting hot when it mattered most and reeling off four-straight wins to capture the 2014 WAC Tournament title and earn the program's first bid into the NCAA Tournament.
About New Mexico State
The Aggies, who edged out Grand Canyon for the top spot in the preseason conference poll, enter Friday's opener atop the WAC standings with a 24-11 record. New Mexico State recently defeated its fellow in-state foe New Mexico on Tuesday in Albuquerque, 12-6, as it belted out 17 hits en route to the victory. Prior to Tuesday's win over UNM, NM State dropped a doubleheader to No. 17 Arizona at home last weekend. The Aggies finished second in the WAC a year ago with a 10-4 league record.
Four players are hitting more than .400 on the season for NM State, and Lacey Rother leads the way with a .421 clip. Brennalyn Nakamura is right behind her at .418, while Emma Adams and the reigning WAC Player of the Week Melena Padilla are each batting an even .400. Rother and Adams were named preseason all-conference this year. Karysta Donisthorpe anchors the Aggie pitching staff with a 13-3 record and a 2.91 ERA. Her 13 wins are good enough to lead the WAC, while her 85 strikeouts pace the league as well.
This weekend's contests will mark the eighth, ninth and 10th all-time meetings between the Wolverines and Aggies. NM State holds a 5-2 advantage and won the first five contests before UVU defeated it twice in the 2014 WAC Tournament, including a 7-6 victory in the conference championship game.
Up next for the Wolverines
UVU returns to Orem for its 2015 home conference opening series against CSU Bakersfield next weekend, April 3-4. The Wolverines and Roadrunners will play a single game on April 3 at 2 p.m., before concluding the series with a doubleheader at noon on April 4.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.