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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Softball avoids weekend sweep with offensive explosion

By Calvin Makelky
On April 8, 2014

After sweeping Colorado State and getting swept by Fresno State in Mountain West play, the Aggies were pounded by San Jose State’s offense in all three games, but Utah State’s offense caught fire Sunday to avoid being swept.

The series brought the Aggies to 4-5 in the Mountain West with a 15-20 overall record. San Jose State improved to 21-15 overall and 4-2 in conference play.

USU 0 SJSU 8 (6 innings)
Despite earning seven walks, the Aggies were routed as the offense failed to score. USU suffered its first home loss of the season in six innings.

The leading pitcher on the staff for the Aggies, sophomore Noelle Johnson, was unable to slow down the Spartans’ impressive offense. Johnson gave up eleven hits and nine runs in six innings of work on Friday.

Johnson was not helped out at all by the Aggie offense on the day. USU managed just two hits, which were singles by junior shortstop Jolene Koons and freshman third baseman Victoria Saucedo.

The Aggies were down 4-0 heading into the sixth inning, but then the bats for the Spartans exploded for five runs on five hits. Down more than eight runs in the fifth inning or later, the Aggies needed at least two runs to keep the game alive, but the offense failed to score.

USU 4 SJSU 12 (5 innings)
Despite scoring four runs in the second inning, it was much of the same on Saturday as the Aggies were stomped by the Spartans in five innings.

"I think right now, too many of them are taking one bad swing or letting one bad play affect the rest of the at bat or game for them, and we can't do that,” said USU head coach Steve Johnson. “It's a game of failure, and we've got to be able to bounce back from something like that and keep fighting.”

After giving up eight quick runs in the top of the first two innings, the Aggies fought back in the bottom of the second inning.

Senior designated player Samantha Larsen and sophomore catcher Kirstyn Namba reached base on an error and hit-by-pitch, respectively. Senior second baseman Allison Lenzora then knocked home Larsen with a single to left. Sophomore outfielder Sarah Chow then walked to load the bases for Koons. Koons delivered with a line drive down the left field line that plated Namba and Lenzora. No. 3 hitter Saucedo then hit a sacrifice fly to deep right to score Chow to pull the Aggies to an 8-4 score.

The Aggie offense failed to plate any more runs in the game and allowed four more runs by the Spartans in the next three innings to end the game in five innings.

Despite the scoring four runs, the Aggies mustered only four hits, as they were helped out by four costly errors by the Spartans.

Freshman pitcher Abby Indreland started the game for the Aggies but was pulled in the first inning after surrendering five runs on five hits. Redshirt sophomore Mariah Peterson came in as relief but failed to keep the potent Spartan offense at bay as she gave up seven runs on seven hits in more than four innings of work.

USU 16 SJSU 8 (5 innings)
Scoring just four runs in the first two games of the series, USU not only woke up but exploded for 16 runs to put the Spartans to bed early after six innings.

The 16 runs by the Aggies were the most scored by the team since the USU record 17 runs scored back in 1995. All nine hitters in the lineup for the Aggies had a hit in the game as the team totaled 17 hits.

"This was why we've kept on them, because this is what we knew they could do as hitters. I don't have a magic answer for it. I wish I did and I could write a book and make millions, but we knew this was there and this was possible," Steve Johnson said. "I think once we got that seven-run first inning, we started believing in ourselves a little bit better, and that gets contagious, just like sharks circling in the water when they smell blood and everyone wants to be the next one up.”

No. 3, 4, and 9 hitters in Saucedo, junior outfielder Hailey Froton and Lenzora went a combined eight for 10 with 10 RBIs and two home runs. Lenzora had four of those RBIs, while Saucedo and Froton each hit a homerun. The home runs were No. 5 for Saucedo and No. 6 for Froton on the season.

Noelle Johnson picked up her 14th win of the season in five innings of work. The Spartan offense still gave the Aggies fits by collecting eleven hits and eight runs. Only six of those runs were earned runs allowed by Johnson, as the offense covered up the four errors by the Aggie defense.

After giving up a run in the top of the first inning, USU was quick to jump on the Spartan pitchers they’ve seen the last couple days with seven runs. The run fest in the inning was highlighted by a two-run double in the right center gap by Johnson and three-run triple down the right field line by Lenzora.

The Spartans used two different pitchers in the first innings, then turned to a third to finish the game.

The Spartan offense wouldn’t go away as the Aggies held a slim 10-7 run lead in a slugfest, but the Aggies ended the game early in the bottom of the fifth inning with six runs. The inning was highlighted by a two-run double by Koons and Saucedo and Froton going yard back-to-back.

-- cmakelky@gmail.com
Twitter: @Makelky

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