Utah State softball ends season in pair of tournament losses

OGDEN, Utah – Fighting off bad weather and struggling to find its offensive power, Utah State softball ended its season Wednesday, after being eliminated from the National Invitational Softball Championship in losses to Weber State and Boise State.

The Aggies opened the day in a 2-0 loss to the in-state rival Wildcats, moving to the losing bracket where they fell to Mountain West foe Boise State, 10-2, in six innings.

In the first game of the day, Utah State tallied three hits, with each coming off a different batter. Senior first baseman Paxton Provost tallied six putouts to lead the defense. Freshman Kellie White pitched the complete game against the Wildcats, striking out two batters and walking one.

In action against Boise State, senior second baseman Victoria Saucedo was 2-for-2 at the plate, responsible for half of the Aggies’ hits. Provost was tops defensively with another six putouts. Senior pitcher April Brown made the start against the Broncos, throwing 2.1 innings before being relieved by junior Jordyn McCracken. In her 3.2 innings, McCracken struck out a career-best five batters, while walking one.

It’s a disappointing end to a great season. After the way we came out yesterday that we’d gotten our groove back, but we didn’t have the same energy today. We didn’t make adjustments at the plate in either game, and you have to score runs. We just didn’t get that done today,” said USU head coach Steve Johnson. “This is a tough time of year, with a lot of things going on. Whoever is going to be the most focused for seven innings is going to win. Unfortunately, that was the other teams today.”

Utah State ends its season with a 33-18 overall record. That is the highest winning percentage Utah State has finished a year with since 1993, when the team went 39-17 (.696).

Weber State was first to score Wednesday, as the Wildcats plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the second. The Wildcats put two runners on early with a walk and a single. On the next batter, senior shortstop Sarina Jaramillo made the out at second, but an overthrown ball got past Provost, allowing both remaining runners to advance and score the first run of the game. A single on the next at-bat brought a runner in from second, scoring another run for the Wildcats. After one more hit, junior third baseman Amee Aarhus turned a great double play to get the Aggies out of the inning.

That would be the end of scoring for the game, as the remaining innings turned into a defensive battle. Utah State’s first hit came on a single from junior catcher Brina Buttacavoli in the top of the third. The Aggies put together three hits over the remaining innings, adding another three base runners on Weber State errors and a walk. However, all runners were left stranded, as the offense was unable to take advantage of its opportunities.

In all, Weber State out-hit the Aggies, 6-3, but the Wildcats had two errors in the game.

After a series of lightning, snow and hail-related weather delays, the Aggies returned to the field to take on Mountain West foe Boise State in an elimination game.

The Broncos didn’t waste any time getting started in the later game, putting a solo shot on the board on the second pitch. A double and a triple would follow, scoring another run and putting Boise State one hit short of the cycle early on. The Aggies looked to answer in the bottom half of the inning, but managed just one hit off the bat of Saucedo.

After retiring the Boise State offense in order in the top of the second, the Aggies were able to cut into the lead. Jaramillo led-off the inning with a walk, while freshman outfielder Riley Plogger followed with her second triple of the week to bring her home. Plogger then scored on a single from Buttacavoli, tying the score. Utah State added two more base runners on a pair of fielder’s choice plays, but both were left on.

The third inning was another strong one for Boise State. After the lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, a single put runners on the corners. The second home run of the day came then, clearing the bases and putting the Broncos back in the lead. After another single, the Aggie staff brought McCracken into the circle. Another home run followed though, bringing two more runs across. McCracken picked up her first strikeout, while also giving up a walk and a single before the end of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Utah State had what would be its last hit of the day on a single from Saucedo, but the inning ended in a double play and a strikeout against the Aggies.

Boise State extended its lead in the top of the fifth. After getting a runner on with a bunt single, the runner stole second and advanced to third on a sac bunt. A sac fly followed to bring her across the plate. Another two runs were added tot he Bronco total in the top of the sixth on back-to-back triples and a single. The Aggies got one runner on in the bottom of the sixth, but a double play and a groundout ended the game in six innings as the snow started to fall again.

Boise State tallied 13 hits to Utah State’s four, while the Aggies added one error.

Weber State and Boise State will now play to advance to the Championship Round of the NISC. The game between the Wildcats and Broncos is set for 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 18.

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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