Balls were leaving Johnson Field at a regular clip in the early going Friday afternoon.
That was a good thing for Utah State in a Mountain West softball game against New Mexico. In the first of a three-game series scheduled for the weekend, the Aggies went yard four times in each of the first four innings.
Clutch plays on defense and solid pitching was enough for USU to end a four-game skid with a 7-6 victory. It was the sixth straight loss for the Lobos.
All seven of the USU runs came thanks to home runs. Catcher Bailey Lewis sent two over the fence, each with a runner on base.
“I’m sure in my four years here we have had a game where all the runs came from home runs,” said Lewis, who had never hit two dingers in the same game for the Aggies. “Today was good with everyone seeing the ball. It was nice that a lot of our home runs were multi-run ones. It was good.”
The long ball has been a friend of USU of late, even during its losing streak.
“We’ve had a lot of power the last five or six games, with eight or nine home runs,” Aggie head coach Steve Johnson said. “We need to string some hits together. We can’t rely on the home run. It’s nice when it comes. It’s nice to have the power.”
After giving up a run in the top of the first to the Lobos (10-27, 1-9 MW), the Aggies (12-18, 3-6) responded with a solo shot in the bottom of the first. Stephanie Reed took the first pitch she saw and hit her first career home run to knot the score.
USU would add a pair of runs in the second, third and fourth. After Kennedy Hira recorded her first triple as an Aggie, Lewis came to the plate with two outs and deposited the first pitch she saw way over the fence in left field to put the hosts up 3-1.
“I’ve been working all week on adjusting and waiting on the ball,” Lewis said. “My main goal was to stay back and try to adjust to the speed, and see something early in the count, be more aggressive. That’s what I did, and it was good.”
Hira made a great catch on a liner that bounced off her glove. She dove to make the catch and help starter Delaney Hull out of the third inning.
In the bottom of the third, Reed drew a walk with one out. Bailee Trapp followed and like her teammates, took the first pitch she saw and sent it screaming out of Johnson Field, clearing the fence in left center to give USU a 5-1 lead.
“Bailee Trapp had three home runs last weekend, and her partner in crime Bailey Lewis has a couple today,” Johnson said. “We need to keep it rolling.”
A couple of walks came back to bite the Aggies in the top of the fourth. Twice the Lobos loaded the bags and scored on wild pitches. The visitors also scored on a single by Taylor Jones. New Mexico pulled within 5-4.
USU answered in its part of the fourth. Ryann Holmes was hit by a pitch, and Lewis made New Mexico pay. She took a 2-1 pitch and sent it over the fence in right for her second two-run dinger of the day.
The Lobos joined the home run party with a two-run shot by Bailey Klitzke in the top of the fifth to pull within a run. Hull, who would get the win, gave way in the circle to freshman Kapri Toone. Toone struck out five over the last three innings, including the side in the sixth, and allowed just one hit to get the save. The five K’s matched her season high.
“Delaney came in and she did a really good job early in shutting them (Lobos) down,” said Lewis, who caught both Aggie pitchers. “Kapri came in and did her job. It was big for a freshman to come in and do that.”
USU had six hits on the day and did not commit an error. Lewis nearly had a third hit, swatting a sharp hit ball to right center that a Lobo ran down.
New Mexico recorded nine hits. Aleyah Wilbon went 3 for 4 to lead the Lobos, who committed two errors.
“One of the biggest focuses we have with our pitching staff is to overcome when we have that (bad) inning,” Johnson said. “We talk all the time about winning the freebie war, which is walks, hit by pitches, errors and stolen bases. That’s what’s doomed us in these previous four games. That started to happen there, but we shut it down. Delaney had a great start, and Kapri came in and really slammed the door on them.”
The Aggies and Lobos resume the series Saturday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 4 o’clock on Salute to Service Day.
“Today was a great stepping stone forward for us to get in a really good position to keep winning,” Lewis said.