March rolls in like a lion for UVU softball
Photos by Gabi Campbell
A difficult beginning of the season has turned into a successful March for UVU softball.
In the month known for the beginning of spring, the Wolverines are .500 (7-7) as of March 27. One run decided three of those contests, and UVU only lost two games by more than three runs.
“I think we finally found a rhythm that allowed the girls to relax a little bit and trust their natural abilities,” head coach Nikki Palmer said.
Individual accolades have been another result of the improved play.
Senior Josi Summers was named Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the week in back-to-back weeks to begin the month, and freshman Hailey Kofler took WAC Hitter of the Week for her performance the first and third weeks.
Summers’ no-hitter in a 3-0 win against Albany, in which she struck out eight and walked only two, was a major reason she took the award a second straight time.
“She definitely knew that she was better than anyone she was facing,” Palmer said of the outing. “It was a strong team and she just knocked them down.”
Kofler leads the team with five home runs and a .683 slugging percentage. She’s also second in batting average (.317) and RBIs (15).
“She has a tremendous amount of natural ability that you just can’t teach,” Palmer said of Kofler. “She’s worked hard on her swing and her selection within counts.”
UVU has achieved the success in March despite playing on the road for all but three games. The Wolverines have played 23 of 26 overall away from Orem.
“It’s always an awesome thing to play at home, but honestly I just feel like we’ve found who we are as a team and our personality as a team, ” Palmer said.
Things haven’t gotten any easier in the foreign environments UVU has experienced.
In Orlando, Fla., where the Wolverines took seven of eight, the conditions were less than ideal, and one game even featured an umpire staff short on personnel.
“The fields were not really well groomed,” Palmer said. “It wasn’t traditional Division I softball conditions. I think it made us grow as a team and there’s a comfort level wherever we are. The girls are prepared to play anywhere.”
Although she hasn’t been publicly recognized for her stellar play during the initial two months of her collegiate career, freshman Brianna Gatlin has been one of the catalysts for UVU’s offense scoring at least one run in every March game and seven or more runs four times.
Gatlin bats at the top of order and leads the Wolverines with a .347 batting average, nine doubles and 22 RBIs. She’s second only to Kofler on UVU with a .507 slugging percentage.
“She is one of our best players right now, and on defense she’s played three different positions – third base, catcher and outfield,” Palmer said.
UVU (7-19) began a seven-game road swing March 28, starting with a three-game set against league foe Bakersfield before stopping for one game in Logan and heading to Seattle for three games.
The Wolverines then have seven home games beginning April 5, which includes in-state games against BYU and Utah.