Tia Palauni cracked a second-inning grand slam Sunday against No. 23 Oregon State.
April 29, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY - Senior first baseman Tia Palauni launched a grand slam over the center-field fence in the bottom of the second inning, but the University of Utah softball came up just short of No. 23 Oregon State, 5-4, in the Pac-12 Conference series finale Sunday at Ute Field.
Utah (26-23, 1-17 Pac-12) tied 23rd-ranked Oregon State with eight hits apiece in the contest and the Ute defense recorded its 16th error-free performance of the season. Utah owns an 8-8 record this season when not committing a miscue in the field.
Palauni went 1-for-2 on the day and homered for the second straight game and the seventh time this season. Palauni now owns 24 career round-trippers during her time at Utah. With four RBI today against the Beavers, the Taylorsville, Utah native has driven in 25 runs in 2012 and 87 over her career. This was Palauni's fifth multi-RBI performance of the year.
Hoopiiaina doubled in the fourth and now leads the team with 11 two-base hits this season. She is tied with senior third baseman Whitney Holm for team-high honors with 19 extra-base hits this year. Hoopiiaina is also tied with Holm for the team lead in multi-hit games this season as both have had 13 such performances this season. Hoopiiaiana ranks second on the squad with 49 hits and currently sports a .320 average at the plate.
Hoopiiaina, a Riverton, Utah native, also scored a run and drew a walk in addition to stealing her 17th base of the season. She improved to a perfect 17-of-17 on stolen base attempts this season and is 22-of-30 over her career.
Dickman turned in the seventh multi-hit outing of her career as she went 2-for-4 at the plate with a single in third and fifth innings.
Senior Generra Nielson got the start for the Utes and went 4.0 innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits to go with two strikeouts and a pair of walks. Freshman Mariah Ramirez once again provided solid relief from the bullpen in 3.0 innings of work, allowing an earned run on two hits, while striking out one and walking. Unfortunately, Ramirez was credited with the hard-luck loss and dropped to 3-5 in pitching decisions this season.
Palauni drew a one-out walk in the first inning before Holm drilled a single through the left-center field gap to put Ute runners on first and second base. Sweet drew a second walk to load the bases for Utah, but OSU got Dickman to line a well-hit ball to first base for the third out of the frame.
The same scenario played out in the second inning as Clements led off with a walk before sophomore catcher Chalese Fankhauser popped a one-out single through the middle of the Beaver defensive alignment to put Ute runners on the first and second base bags. A Hoopiiaina base on balls loaded the bases once again and this time Palauni slammed a 2-2 delivery over the left-field fence to put Utah ahead 4-0.
The Utes have been the first to score in 25 games this year, but dropped to 18-7 in those contests.
OSU responded with a two-run home run by Dani Gilmore to start the third inning, which cut the Beavers' deficit in half.
Hoopiiaina looped a one-out double down the left-field line in the fourth frame, while Palauni followed by drawing her second walk of the contest. Unfortunately, the Beavers were able to get Ute hitters to pop out to third base and ground into an unassisted out at second base.
Gilmore came up with her second home run of the day, a solo shot to start the top of the fifth frame, which brought the Beavers within a run at 4-3. OSU scored twice more in the frame to take the lead for the first time in the contest, 5-4.
Holm walked with one out in the seventh frame. Junior Sandi Bowles was inserted into the lineup as a pinch runner before junior second baseman Jackie Sweet looped a single through the right side of the OSU defense, but the Beavers got the Utes to pop into a game-ending double play, which preserved their 5-2 victory.
The Utes travel to No. 3/2 Arizona State next weekend for a three-game conference set in Tempe against the Sun Devils, starting Friday at 7 p.m. MT.