Top-ranked Oregon used an eight-run first inning to distance itself from Utah Valley University early and went on to claim a 12-1 victory in the opening round of the NCAA Regional on Friday evening at UO's Howe Field.
The Wolverines (18-41) now face Albany in the bracket's first elimination game Saturday at 3 p.m. MT. The Great Danes dropped a 1-0 decision to Wisconsin on Friday to drop into the win-or-go-home matchup.
Oregon, the No. 1 overall seed of the NCAA Tournament, flexed its muscle early on, taking a big lead in the first inning. Sophomore and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Cheridan Hawkins sent the first three Wolverines down in order, including two strikeouts, and the UO (50-7-1) offense handed its starting pitcher plenty of breathing room when it exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the frame.
The first three Ducks reached on infield singles with a passed ball helping leadoff hitter Courtney Ceo to come home on Janie Takeda's grounder that settled just beyond the second base bag. UVU starter Josi Summers got the next hitter to fly out to center field, but the next five UO hitters reached base to account for five runs with just one out on the board. The Ducks benefitted from two walks, an error and a wild pitch that scored a run during the rally. Oregon tacked on two more runs on Janelle Lindvall's two-out single to take an 8-0 lead after one inning complete.
The Ducks scored three more in the second inning to take an 11-0 lead and chase Summers (10-18) from the ballgame. UO then posted one run in the third against reliever Bailey Moore to reach its total of 12.
Six of those 12 runs were scored with two outs in the frame and three were unearned as the Wolverines committed two errors — twice as many as it had committed in the entirety of last weekend's WAC Tournament.
"We just didn't do the things we needed to do early on," UVU head coach Nikki Palmer said. "They are the number one team in the country for a reason, but we've just got to be a little bit better on our end. It's just a matter of getting done what needs to get done when we have the opportunity."
Amanda Robinson delivered Utah Valley's first run and first hit of the contest in just one swing when she homered in the top of the fourth off UO reliever Karissa Hovinga. It was the 12th home run of the season for Robinson, and she is now just one shy of tying her own UVU record for homers in a season.
USA Softball National Player of the Year Hawkins, who entered the game with a 30-4 record, took a no-decision for Oregon after leaving the game after just two innings of work. She struck out five Wolverines in that time, walked just one and did not surrender a hit. Hovinga improves to 16-2 in the win, throwing 3.0 innings and striking out six.
For UVU, Moore allowed only one run on two hits and 2.1 innings.
Brianna Gatlin also delivered a base hit to lead off the fifth inning for the Wolverines' second hit and was replaced at first by pinch-runner Dara Rahm. But Rahm was stranded at first as UVU was unable to avoid the run-rule decision as the final score was settled in the fifth.
Utah Valley now turns its attention to Albany, entering Saturday off a tough, 1-0 loss to Wisconsin despite allowing only two hits in the game. The Wolverines and Great Danes have met once already this season — a 3-0 win for UVU on March 13, at the Rebel Spring Games in Winter Haven, Florida. Summers threw the first no-hitter in program history, and Debra Lovell drove in a run to help the Wolverines to their sixth victory of the season.
"Albany is a different team and we're a different team than we were back in March," Palmer said of Saturday's meeting with the Great Danes. "They deserve to be here just like us and we can't afford to take them lightly."
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company