Cooled down in the desert

Beginning the season strong is the opportunity to reinforce lofty pre-season expectations surrounding a team. The Red Desert Classic was the stage for the Utah Valley softball team to accomplish the task, winning four out of five.

“This was a great tournament for us,” said Head Coach Rachel Hartgrove. “We had a little hiccup against Idaho State [an 11-3 loss] but that’s where you learn, and these kids did great.”

The lone blemish against Idaho State did not over shadow the Wolverines’ hard fought victories over South Dakota, Southern Utah and Oklahoma State. The wins provided cause for the Pacific Coast Softball Conference to award pitcher Tiffany Mills and infielder/outfielder Amanda Robinson players of the week honors.

“It’s a good feeling, a good accomplishment, a good way to start the year,” Mills said. “It makes me feel like I’m going in the right direction for this year, my last season.”

softballMills was the obvious choice for PCSC pitcher of the week after going 3-0 during the Red Desert Classic, posting an ERA of 0.74 in three games. The senior from Riverside, California, stymied the opposition, surrendering only two runs and 16 hits over three games while striking out 19.

“[We] know that we are able to compete with some of the best teams in the nation,” Mills said. “As a team we need to remember that and personally I need to remember that as well. Just do what you do best, stick to what you know and don’t try to go outside what you’re used to doing.”

Amanda Robinson, a junior from Lakewood, California went 8-for-16 at the plate, slugging .813 during UVU’s opening weekend with one home run and three RBIs. Robinson’s .556 on-base percentage also contributed to the PCSC naming her player of the week.

The Easton Desert Classic did not result in similar success the following weekend in Nevada. The Wolverines defeated San Jose State 4-1 behind another strong performance from Mills but dropped their other four contests. UVU’s losses came at the hands of highly ranked opponents, losing to No.7 Oregon, No. 9 Cal, and No. 20 Hawaii. An exciting game versus UNLV ended in disappointment as well, the Wolverines falling 9-5 in extra innings. Despite the losses, the confidence of the team to compete with the nation’s best remains high.

“In reality we should’ve beaten UNLV and we probably should’ve beaten Hawaii, we just left a ton of runners on,” Hartgrove said. “[We] know what [we] have to work on a little bit more. Playing those three top teams is definitely good for our team. We know we can compete with them. We know we’re right there.”

UVU didn’t leave the Easton Desert Classic without recognition. Senior outfielder Kylee Brinkerhoff was named PCSC player of the week. Brinkerhoff powered the Wolverines offensively in their lone victory in Nevada, hitting a home run and a double against San Jose State. She finished the weekend 8-for-18 with three RBIs, now hitting .343 this season and is on a six-game hitting streak.

UVU hosts the University of Utah March 5 at 3:00 PM.

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