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Softball takes four of six in weekend tournament

staff writer

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 23:02

The Utah State softball team traveled to St. George, Utah for the Red Desert Classic to start the new season.

“We had a good weekend all around,” said head coach Steve Johnson on the Aggies performance.

After starting 1-2 through the first two days, the Aggies finished strong by winning their last three games to finish the weekend 4-2. Last year it took until March 16 to win four games.

Game 1: USU vs. SUU
On the first day of the tournament on Thursday, the Aggies easily handled Southern Utah 8-0 in five innings. Sophomore pitcher Noelle Johnson started her weekend with an impressive seven strikeout, two-hit shutout performance in five innings of work. Offensively, the Aggies were paced by junior shortstop Jolene Koons and freshman first baseman Paxton Provost, who each drove in four runs. Koons notched two doubles, while Provost put the Aggies up 8-0 with a dramatic grand slam in the third inning for her first collegiate hit.

Game 2: USU vs. ISU
Despite a seventh inning rally by the Aggies, Utah State fell 10-7 to border-rival Idaho State on Thursday. Pitching proved very difficult against the Tigers. Freshman pitcher Abby Indreland surrendered three runs in less than three innings of work, while Johnson was hammered for seven runs in just more than three innings of relief. USU freshmen powered the Aggies offensively as catcher Sydney Hart, third baseman Victoria Saucedo and Provost each smacked a homerun.

Game 3: USU vs. GSU
The Aggies lost a tight game to Grand Canyon 5-3 on Friday. Freshman pitcher Cheyenne Harper started the game for USU, giving up three runs in two innings. Johnson only surrendered one run over five innings in relief, but the offense was much harder to come by for the Aggies in this game. The Aggie offense lacked juice as they tallied only five hits, none of them for extra bases.

Game 4: USU vs. ECU
Everything clicked for the Aggies against East Carolina on Saturday as they easily won 12-3 in five innings. Johnson was solid for the Aggies on the mound once again, giving up just two runs in five innings of work. The Aggies were very balanced offensively as Koons, Saucedo, Hart and Provost each knocked home two runs apiece.

Game 5: USU vs. UTA
Pitching was the name of the game against UT Arlington Saturday as the Aggies won 5-0. Indreland and Johnson combined to toss a three-hit shutout. Indreland picked up her first win of the season and Johnson was credited with the save. USU started slowly offensively, but scored five runs in the last four innings to preserve the win. Saucedo and Provost each chipped in two hits, while junior outfielder Hailey Froton hit her first home run this year in the sixth inning.

Game 6: USU vs. Omaha
Nebraska-Omaha was stopped stone cold thanks to a masterful pitching performance by Johnson. Johnson proved why she is the team’s ace as she threw a two hit complete game shutout with a USU-record 16 strikeouts.

“She was absolutely outstanding,” Steven Johnson said about Noelle. “She was dialed in and was using her changeup really well, hitting her spots, and kept a very good hitting team off balance.”

Froton continued her late power surge as she tallied three hits and two home runs to back Johnson’s pitching gem.

Johnson was a workhorse for the Aggies all weekend, going 3-1 with three complete games and threw 29 1/3 innings of the 36 total innings pitched for the team. She also totaled an impressive 40 strikeouts and only 10 earned runs for the tournament for an ERA of 2.39.

The Aggies shined offensively most of the weekend as they scored five or more runs in all but one game. Koons hit .538 with six RBIs while Froton hit .350 with three home runs. Saucedo was second on the team in hitting at .438, while fellow freshman Provost hit .333 and led the team with nine RBIs.

“We did a good job of getting clutch hits with runners in scoring position and we got the runs our pitchers needed,” Steve Johnson said. “We’ve already hit seven home runs compared to last year’s total of eight.”

Defense might have been the most impressive aspect of the Aggies’ performance over the weekend. USU committed three errors over the span of six games, while its opponents totaled 11 errors.

The Aggies take a break for two weeks then resume play on Friday, Feb. 28 at the San Diego Classic.

– cmakelky@gmail.com
Twitter: @makelky 

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