TEMPE, Ariz. – Big hits and dominant pitching propelled UTA softball to a split with UC Riverside and New Mexico on opening day at the Kajikawa Classic, Friday.
“We have a very young team,” Head coach Kristie Fox said. “You could definitely see their nerves in the first game. Even though they did not play like they know how, we were right in the game to the very end.”
The Mavs opened the day with a heartbreaking 6-5 loss in extra-innings to UC Riverside but bounced back to take down New Mexico in convincing fashion, 5-1.
“I was very proud of how they quickly turned it around in the second game,” Fox said. “It shows a very mentally tough group.”
UTA is back at it Saturday with a 12:45 p.m. game with Saint Mary’s before playing host, Arizona State at 5:30 p.m.
Game 1: UC Riverside 6, UTA 5 (8)
Despite a late inning comeback, UTA softball drops its season opener to UC Riverside, 6-5 in eight innings on Friday evening.
The Highlanders got on the board first, plating a run in the second and three in the third to take the 4-0 lead.
The Mavs threatened early and often with runners reaching base in every inning. UTA finally broke through in the fifth when Cy’Andria Newton scored the first Maverick run of the season.
Following her third hit of the game, Laura Curry scored the Mavs second run with an RBI base hit by Kacey Everett in the sixth.
After Aileen Garcia reached on a fielder’s choice, Melanie Mendoza came on to run for her, quickly advancing to second on a base hit by Krista Rude, her second of the day. Three-straight walks by Reagan Wright, Everett and Sandra Mendoza help plate two runs to tie it up at four.
Picking up from where she left off last year, Rude drove in Whitney Walton with an RBI double in the eighth to put the Mavs up 5-4 and give them their first lead of the season.
The Highlanders responded in the bottom of the eighth with two runs and take the 6-5 victory.
Game 2: UTA 5, New Mexico 1
Lights out pitching and clutch hitting by Wright and company led the Mavs to a 5-0 win over New Mexico for their first victory of the season.
Both teams were held in check through the first three innings of play before Wright helped the Mavs get on the board in a big way, drilling the first home run of her career over the left wall.
UTA added some insurance runs in the sixth. Curry got it started with a leadoff single to left. Walton followed her with her first career hit, a double left center before Wright stepped to plate and cashed in. She ripped a double to left center to drive in both Curry and Walton. Rude and Newton both recorded RBI hits in the inning to push the Mavs lead to 5-0.
The Lobos were able to score one in the seventh but that was it.
Sam Clakley was dominant on the mound, going to the distance, striking out six.
Wright and Garcia each recorded multiple hit games, the first of their careers.
“Reagan swung the bat well today and hit is some key runs we needed,” Fox said. “I like that she adds some power to middle of our line up.”