AGGIES TAKE GAME TWO, SERIES UP FOR GRABS SUNDAY

LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) – UNLV softball looked as if it was headed towards another victory in game two against Utah State Saturday at Eller Media Stadium, but the Aggies had other plans. The visitors scored five runs over the fourth and fifth innings to erase a 2-0 Rebel lead and even the Mountain West series at one game apiece. For the second straight week, the series will come down to Sunday’s rubber match, which is set for 12 pm.

With the loss the Rebels moved to 20-9 overall and 3-2 in league play, while Utah State improved to 11-16 and picked up their first conference win at 1-4.

Sophomore Charlie Masterson got the start in the circle for UNLV and was coming off her second shutout of the year in a 6-0 win at New Mexico a week ago. The right-hander looked solid through the first three innings and was one out away from getting through four cleanly, but a two-out two-run home run by Utah State pinch hitter Baile Lewis tied the game up at two and ended Masterson’s scoreless streak at 11.2 innings. The next inning the Aggies seemed to figure out Masterson as they tagged her for four hits and scored three runs to take the lead.

For the third consecutive game UNLV scored in the first inning with Jade Yadao-Valdez drawing a leadoff walk and crossing the plate after Justine Federe’s groundout went through the legs of the Aggie second baseman. Catcher Brooke Stover then sent a hit up the middle to score Federe to put the Rebels up 2-0 in the opening frame. The hit extended Stover’s hitting streak to eight games, while it was the senior’s 18th RBI of the year.

Entering the game, the Rebels had won three straight and had been 13-0 when scoring first, but both marks ended with Saturday’s loss.

THE TURNING POINT: After Utah State tied it with a pinch-hit two-out two-run home run in the fourth inning, the Aggies carried that momentum into the fifth. While Masterson got the leadoff hitter out, the Aggies were able to string together four consecutive hits to score two runs and make it 4-2. With two outs, a Rebel error allowed one more run to score to provide the final margin of victory of Utah State.

STAT OF THE GAME: A couple of streaks may have ended with the defeat, but a pair of individual streaks stayed alive as Stover extended her hitting streak to eight games and freshman first baseman Mia Trejo reached base safely for the 12th straight game.

Head coach Kristie Fox -“We always talk about playing our own game and taking care of the ball and having our pitcher’s back and I don’t think we did that as a team today. We had some opportunities we could have taken advantage of and we didn’t. The good news is that everything that happened is in our control, so we’ve just got to come out and play our own game tomorrow. We’re still in a good position, we’re at home in a situation where we still have the opportunity to take the series, so I hope they come out ready to go tomorrow.”

REBEL NOTES:
* Despite the loss, UNLV’s 20-9 record through the first 29 games is still its best start since the 1996 squad went 21-8
* With 20 wins, the Rebels are just five shy of matching their season total in all of 2017 with 20 regular season games left to play. If they can get to 30 wins this season, it will mark the first 30-win season since 2010
* Senior Brooke Stover extended her hitting streak to eight games, while Mia Trejo extended her on-base streak to 12
* The Utah State home run in the fourth ended a 11.2 inning scoreless streak by sophomore Charlie Masterson
* UNLV’s two errors in the game marked just the third time this season that they’ve committed more than one error in a game

UP NEXT FOR THE REBELS: The series rubber match between UNLV and Utah State is set for Sunday, March 25 at Eller Media Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m.