There’s no secret it’s been a very trying season for the Utah State softball team.
Nevertheless, the Aggies have proven at times to be a very capable team, and this was certainly the case in their home and season finale.
USU put together a complete game and ended a six-game skid with a 5-2 Western Athletic Conference victory over Texas State on a picture-perfect Saturday at Johnson Field.
“I needed this,” said senior pitcher Shelbi Tyteca, who only allowed two hits through five innings. “Yesterday was a little shaky and I was debating coming back today just because of graduation and everything, but I’m glad I did. Everyone played phenomenal today.”
Tyteca was the only one of five Aggie seniors who played Saturday. The other four, Katie Bowdidge, Mandy Harmon, Kali Cancelosi and Christine Thomsen, had graduation ceremonies and activities that conflicted with the game. That’s why the seniors were honored prior to Friday’s doubleheader.
Needless to say, USU (11-43, 5-16 WAC) was motivated to send its seniors out on the right foot.
“It’s great, it’s a great feeling,” said USU left fielder Jolene Koons, who belted two hits and scored twice. “And we did it for our seniors, too, because they couldn’t be here today, so it was great to end on a good note for them and for us going into next season.”
The Aggies played well in all three aspects of the game Saturday. Tyteca was rock solid in the circle, USU’s defense only committed one error and made a handful of crucial plays, and the hosts racked up 10 base knocks — most of which were line drives — and only struck out once.
Additionally, the Aggies were opportunistic and alert on the base paths Saturday.
Case in point: USU scored twice on a bizarre infield fly play. The score was knotted at 1-1 with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fourth when Amburlyn Orozco popped one up toward third base. The ball drifted to shallow left, but the umpire had already called for the infield fly rule. However, the Texas State shortstop and left fielder didn’t communicate well enough on the play and collided, and the ball fell to the ground and Koons alertly took off from third base.
When the Bobcats finally corralled the ball, not only was the throw to home late, it was off target, allowing Kassandra Uchida to score from second base.
“It’s awesome and I think that’s what good teams do, they capitalize on opportunities that they are given,” Koons said.
Texas State finally found its groove at the plate against Tyteca in the sixth inning, as the visitors had three hits in four at-bats. The one player that didn’t get a hit during that timespan, however, grounded into a critical 5-6-3 double play, which was well-executed by the Aggie defense.
The Bobcats only trailed 3-2 in the top of the sixth following Courtney Harris’ second RBI double of the game, and they had runners on first and second with two outs when Coralee Ramirez lined a Tyteca offering to deep center. Orozco was up to the challenge, though, as the center fielder made an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch to end the frame.
“Amber’s catch out in center field, I think I had a heart attack,” said Tyteca, who is usually USU’s closer. “I was like, ‘Thank you, thank you.’ ... But I think this was one (game) where people played more relaxed, and I think that helped a lot.”
USU then took advantage of two Texas State (14-35, 10-11) errors and added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the six. Allison Lenzora and Hailey Froton each had a sacrifice fly during the inning.
Noelle Johnson pitched the seventh inning and earned the save for USU. After inducing two quick outs, Johnson yielded back-to-back singles. Shelby Carnline, Texas State’s ensuing batter, hit a laser to Lenzora at second base, but she stretched high to make the catch and seal the win.
In addition to Koons, Tyteca and Uchida had two base knocks apiece for the Aggies, who have struggled all season long in tightly-contested games. USU lost 24 games by three or fewer runs this season, including 12 by a single run.
Aggie head coach Carissa Kalaba was unavailable for comment following the contest.