08 May CHAMPIONS!! Utah Tech Softball Clinches Outright WAC Regular Season Title with Saturday Sweep of Utah Valley
(ST. GEORGE, Utah – May 6, 2023) Utah Tech claimed the outright Western Athletic Conference regular season softball title thanks to a sweep of a home doubleheader with Utah Valley on Senior Day Saturday at Karl Brooks Field.
The Trailblazers, who were picked to finish eighth in the WAC preseason coaches poll, clinched the title with a 6-3 victory in the first game, then completed the overall series sweep of the Wolverines with a 10-2 triumph in five innings in the nightcap.
Utah Tech finished the regular season with a 34-16 overall record, a 15-win turnaround from a season ago (19-32), which included a 19-5 WAC mark (8-16 in 2022).
Meanwhile, the Trailblazers’ regular season WAC championship is the first team conference crown won by Utah Tech in the near three full seasons of the university’s NCAA Division I transition.
Utah Tech used the long ball to jump out to a quick 3-0 lead through three innings complete in game one. Senior Shea Clements got the Trailblazers on the board in the first inning with a towering two-run home run to left center, her team-leading sixth of the season.
Fellow senior Hannah Hughbanks followed suit to lead off the third with her third homer of the year to give the Blazers a three-run cushion.
Senior pitcher Ashtyn Bauerle had it going early in the circle, striking out four while limiting the Wolverines (17-32/10-14 WAC) to just three hits over her first three ininngs of work.
However UVU would spoil a possible shutout bid when Payge Armendariz doubled to left center with two on and one out to cut the deficit to 3-1. Trailblazer reliever Attlyn Johnston would come out of the bullpen and ended the Wolverine threat by getting Mya Higareda to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Trailblazers managed to get that run back in the home fourth with a one-out Rachel Campbell solo homer, but UVU answered with a two-run Megan Gibbs blast an inning later that cut the UT lead to 4-3.
Utah Tech would plate two big insurance runs in the sixth, thanks to the bat, and the legs of LB Kahahawai-Kekona, who stretched the Blazer lead to 5-3 with a pinch-hit single down the left field line to chase home pinch runner Ellie Evans from second base.
Kahahawai-Kekona then stole second and came all the way around to score when the throw down caromed away from an UVU infielder into shallow left field.
Johnston (W, 9-6) would work around a two-out UVU double to close out the championship clinching win.
Clements and Lauren Almeida each collected two hits as the Blazers outhit UVU 8-7. Johnston struck out one and scattered two runs on two hits over 3.2 innings of relief to earn the decision.
Utah Tech kept the momentum going in the nightcap, striking for nine runs over its first three innings to bolt out to a commanding lead. Almeida opened the scoring with an RBI-single in the first before the Blazers broke the game open with four runs in the second, with the big blow coming on a Windle three-run homer to straight-away center field.
The Trailblazers tacked four more runs in the third for good measure thanks to RBI-hits from Carly Eldredge, Windle, Hughbanks and Almeida.
Meanwhile, senior hurler Kate Dolinski (W, 12-4) was perfect through her first three innings of work with three strikeouts.
UVU broke up the possible no-hit bid with a lead-off double in the fourth, in a frame that also saw the Wolverines plate two unearned runs to trim the Utah Tech lead to 9-2.
However the Trailblazers would push across the game-ending run in the home fifth with a Hughbanks sacrifice fly out to trigger the eight-run mercy rule.
Almeida led the Blazers with three hits and three RBI, while Windle closed out her freshman regular season with a career-high four RBI to go with her fourth homer of the year.
Outside of that fourth inning, Dolinski was perfect as finished with five strikeouts and no walks, and limited UVU to just two fourth-inning hits.
Utah Tech will be the top-seed in the 2023 University Credit Union WAC Softball Tournament, which will be played next week, May 10-13, at the GCU Softball Stadium in Phoenix, Ariz.