The Utah Valley University softball team hosted the UVU Fall Invite Sept. 27-28 and won all three games.
The actual softball season does not start until February, but the fall competition helps the team prepare. Exhibition games help the team get ready for the real thing. Winning does not necessarily matter, though it is a motivator for the players, who always want to win.
Nikki Palmer, the team’s head coach as of this summer, hoped to get the young squad some early competition to push the players to perform at a high level and get them some live experience.
The beginning of the first Saturday afternoon game against the Salt Lake Community College Bruins was somewhat rocky, with UVU hitters unable to hit pitches chased out of the strike zone. The Bruins scored a run in the first inning and then quickly recorded three outs when the Wolverines out came to bat.
The Wolverines put up a good fight after that first inning. Two runners were each able to steal a base then crossed home for two runs during the second inning.
The seventh inning brought added excitement. UVU retired SLCC quickly in their half of the inning and then came to bat determined to win. The Wolverines loaded the bases and scored a run to pull within one. With bases again loaded, Brittney Vansway, a freshman from Irving, Calif., knocked it out of the park.
The grand slam ended the game, the Wolverines triumphing, 7-4. The win followed a successful game against Southern Idaho the previous day, a 9-4 UVU victory. The second game on Saturday afternoon against Western Nevada was all Wolverines, winning 22-4.
Palmer said that while the team consists of many freshmen, they have great senior leadership, which has helped younger members of the team perform the best they can. The invitational brought a chance for the players to put into practice what they have been training. They were able to gain confidence in their abilities with the wins.
UVU is now part of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which brings added excitement for the softball program. Palmer is very familiar with the WAC, so she knows how to help the girls prepare for the new challenge. The players are going to be pushed hard to maintain the enthusiasm from the weekend in order to try to carry the winning streak when the season starts.
The team wants to win the WAC and make it as far as it can in the postseason. Palmer said they are “shooting for the bull’s-eye.” They want to make it to Oklahoma City where the Women’s College World Series is played.
Palmer and assistant coach Aaron Vail, are both new to UVU, but they came highly recommended.
“The sky is the limit for what we can accomplish this season,” said Vail, citing the new athletic director, staff and conference as contributing factors.
SLCC had a good supporting audience at the game on Saturday while the Wolverines struggled in terms of fan attendance. Palmer wants people to know who they are. She hopes the team can grow its fan base by using social media and excelling on the field. Follow @UVU_CoachPalmer and @UVUSoftball on Twitter to stay updated on the team.
The team has a game against BYU Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. in Provo before beginning the BYU Fall Tournament, which takes place Oct. 18-19 at Brent Brown Ballpark.