Play ball

It’s still a little chilly in St. George, but the Ute softball team began its 2005 campaign in fine fashion at the BYU/UVSC tournament over the weekend.

Coach Mona Steven’s squad ran off three consecutive wins, twice against Utah Valley State College, and one versus Southern Utah University.

The victories came by a combined score of 21-4, with the Utes firing on all cylinders.

Pitchers Lindsie Nielsen and Brianna Gourdin combined for all three victories, on a weekend that granted little luck to opposing hitters.

A Salt Lake Community College transfer, Nielsen made her debut for the U in grand style, throwing a one-hitter in the opener against UVSC.

Her no-hit bid was derailed in the 5th and final inning, when UVSC’s Katie Welling reached on a single.

Nielsen walked only one and struck out nine in the Utes 8-0 victory over the Wolverines.

The second game of the day saw Gourdin pick up right where Nielsen left off, this time against Southern Utah. Gourdin mowed down 10 batters while allowing only six base runners in seven innings.

Gourdin also came through at the plate with a key RBI triple to put the Utes up for good in a tight, 3-1 win.

The staff also had a strong showing from starter Samantha Schroeder on Saturday. Schroeder threw four solid innings before being relieved by Nielsen, who was credited with her second win.

The two pitchers benefited from an offensive surge, as the Utes slammed home seven runs in the sixth inning, an outpouring that more closely mirrors last year’s powerful attack than the run-manufacturing approach of this year’s team.

The first game of the weekend exemplified their focus on the latter, as they patiently strung together eight runs, scoring in every inning.

Lynsey Wall and Jackie Wong torched UVSC. Wall went 4-of-7 with a home run, four runs, and four RBI, while Wong went 4-of-5 with 3 runs and 2 RBI.

New additions were a big part of the Utes’ success. Freshmen Diana Phillips and Sharee Fonoti both hit their first career home runs in Saturday’s action.

The Utes hope to continue their torrid early pace against Southern Utah on Thursday in Cedar City.

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