Wolverines use three-run seventh to vault past USU 3-2

Katie Zuniga winds up the pitch (Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics).

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The Utah Valley softball team made a jaw-dropping comeback against the Utah State Aggies on Wednesday, April 27 at Wolverine Softball Field in Orem, Utah. After a scoreless start to the game, the Aggies took a 2-0 lead in the fourth and looked to run away with the game. However, the Wolverines rallied for three in the seventh with Linnah Rebolledo hitting the walkoff hit. The Wolverines now improve to 19-20 on the season and an impressive 8-3 record at home.

The Wolverines, despite being scoreless for most of the game, had a .333 hitting average off eight hits, three runners batted in, two sacrifice hits, and three batters walked. Laynee Betancur led the Wolverines going 2-3 with one RBI and one run scored. Rebolledo followed with one hit and two RBIs while five other Wolverines had one hit apiece. 

Wolverines’ starting pitcher Katie Zuniga was phenomenal for the Wolverines, pitching the full game. Zuniga only earned one run and forced 11 flyouts, seven groundouts, one strikeout, and only gave up six hits in 100 pitches. 

The Aggies, despite scoring early, struggled with a .231 hitting percentage off six hits, one RBI, and only one extra-base hit while leaving five runners on base. Zaia Castruita led the way for USU, clocking two hits (one of them being the extra-base hit), and scoring a run. The other four team hits came from different Aggie hitters.

Aggies’ starting pitcher Kapri Toone, despite having an outstanding performance, had a rough ending to the game, having all three Wolverine runs count against her ERA. Toone still pitched well for the Aggies, logging three strikeouts, nine groundouts, six flyouts, and pitching 61 strikes through 96 pitches. 

After a scoreless start to the game, the Aggies were able to get runners on the corners with just one out in the top of the fourth. Mazie Macfarlane then hit a sacrifice hit to score Ariel Lopez and advance Zaia Castruita to third, giving USU a 1-0 lead early. Taryn Edds kept the inning going after grounding a hit to shortstop that was bobbled, scoring Castruita to put the Aggies up 2-0. Fortunately, Zuniga forced a groundout to get out of the jam. 

The Wolverines tried to respond in the bottom frame by loading up the bases with only one out. However, Toone would escape the jam getting two straight outs.

The Wolverines again attempted another rally in the sixth, getting two runners on base with just one out, but Megan Gibbs grounded into a double play to end the inning. 

The Aggies began the top of the seventh again with runners on the corners with one out. The Aggies then attempted to steal second and home, but the Wolverines were able to put out Sydnee Smith trying to steal home. However, Libbie Hawker was able to get to third on the throw. Fortunately for the Wolverines, Zuniga was able to retire the side to get out of further trouble. 

The Wolverines weren’t going down just yet as Peyton Prigge led off with a double to start the bottom frame for UVU. Danye Albritton singled to put Prigge and herself on the corners. Following the hit, Laynee Betancur softly lined a base hit in the infield to score Prigge and advance Albritton to second, cutting the Wolverine deficit 2-1. Carr kept the runners moving with a sacrifice bunt to put Albritton and Betancur in scoring position. Linnah Rebolledo cashed in on the opportunity and grounded a single bobbled by the Aggies’ infield to score Albritton and Betancur to take the 3-2 victory. 

The Wolverines finish the regular-season series with the Aggies even at 1-1. 

The Wolverines will now travel to Seattle, Washington to take on second-place WAC West Division rivals the Seattle Redhawks in a pivotal series as the Wolverines are one game behind in third place. The series starts with a doubleheader on Friday, April 27. Game one will begin at 4 p.m. MDT and game two is expected to start at 6:30 p.m. MDT. Both games can be streamed on ESPN+. The series will conclude on Saturday, April 30 with the game start set for 2 p.m. MDT, and can be streamed on ESPN+ as well. 

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