Utah Valley University’s softball team opened its season with a win, 6-5, over in-state rival Southern Utah at the Red Desert Classic in St. George. The Wolverines played five big name teams and won against two.
This year Wolverine softball will be fun to watch. A new pitching squad and some big hitters, UVU hopes to gain more confidence according to coach Todd Fairbourne.
“Realistically, if we can be close to .500 I would be happy,” Fairbourne said. “I’m not going to say we don’t want to win this year because we have three seniors, but what I would like is that when these girls leave for the summer they do so with the belief that when they come back next year we can challenge for a conference title and a post-season berth.”
This year coach Fairbourne calls his infield as good of a fielding team as he’s ever had. Fairbourne also has the task to make a competitive team with six of his 15 players being freshmen.
But this team knows how to swing, the team didn’t have a change-up that didn’t get hit into center field and they’ve never seen a fastball they couldn’t turn into an extra-base hit in St. George.
“The thing that we learned from this weekend is that if our pitchers can step up, we are going to win some games,” Fairbourne added. “We are going to be a pretty competitive team this season. We showed down here that we can score some runs even off of good pitching.”
The team is a little thin at pitching. Junior, Amber Sackett, who had not been counted on to pitch this season, threw eight innings in the first four games. Now without their expected pitcher UVU will also be forced to pitch with freshman, Amanda Perez and Jessica Martin.
One of the keys to the offense will be Kylee Steadman, a senior catcher from Lehi who hit .295 last season. Steadman is off to a great start. She’s hitting .455 and already has nine RBIs.
Jessica Andersen, hit .252 last year to go along with 23 RBIs. Those numbers look to go up this season. She hit a 3-run homer to help UVU rally to beat Idaho State in St. George.
Opposing teams are having a hard time getting Perez out. Perez, who figures to see much of her time at the designated hitter spot, leads the team with a .538 average through five games.
Megan Niemann will also play a key role in the success of the offense as the No. 2 hitter. She is hitting .333 on the year and is 2-for-2 in stolen bases. Meghan Woodworth is second on the team in at-bats. She has a .474 on-base percentage.
UVU was 17-34 last year, but ended the season by winning five of its last seven games. Now the question is if UVU can start the season with some of that momentum.