by Zachary Knecht
Featured Image: Photo by Weber State Athletics
Weber State Littlewood Classic Recap
The Weber State Wildcats went to Phoenix for the Littlewood Classic, facing off against high-caliber opponents. While the ‘Cats leave Arizona with a losing record in their five games, they showed more potential of the Big Sky favorites versus top-tier competition.
Weber State went 2-3 in the Littlewood Classic. Though a couple of games were not as pretty as they would have liked, they impressed on their second tournament trip of the year. With pitchers like Amanda Johnson dazzling and hitters like Lauren Hoe raking, the Wildcats are putting together something special in the early campaign.
The ‘Cats spent their three days in Phoenix, battling five opponents in their Littlewood Classic circuit. Their foes were no pushovers either, with teams like Oregon State and #22 Arizona State headlining the lineup. Other formidable adversaries on the way included DePaul, Illinois State, and co-host Grand Canyon. Weber State had the opportunity to showcase its talents against these opponents. Players like Johnson didn’t shy from the spotlight either, as her impressive performances landed her the honor of Big Sky Pitcher of the Week.
Friday, February 17
Weber State at DePaul 7-3
The DePaul Blue Demons were the first team to take a hack at Weber State in Phoenix. Johnson started the day for the Wildcats, throwing three scoreless innings before Brooke Johnson got a hold one, sending a home run to left center to give DePaul a 1-0 lead. The Blue Devils only held that momentum for a split second, though, as Weber State responded in a big way.
The ‘Cats stormed back in the top of the fifth, scoring six runs in response to the Brooke Johnson homer. McKell McCuistion got the scoring started, sending Mia Rushton and Faith Hoe home on a double to left center. Mika Chong was determined to keep the runs comings, singling up the middle to get McCuistion around the bases. The rally continued with Lauren Hoe sending her 25th career home run to left field for a two-run blast. The final score of the inning was Katelyn Whiting getting home on a wild pitch.
Their lead was more than sustainable, holding off a late rally from the Blue Devils. Amanda Johnson was credited with the win (2-2), striking out eight in her three-run, six-hit complete game.
Weber State at Illinois State 0-9
That would be the end of Weber State’s offensive production for the day, being no-hit in six innings against the Illinois State Redbirds. The contest was over early as Illinois State tacked on seven runs in the first two innings, sending Madison Peterson to the dugout after 0.2 innings pitched. She gave up five runs on five hits with no strikeouts. Brooke Hatfield finished the rest of the game for the ‘Cats but didn’t have much better luck. She pitched five innings, letting up four more runs on eight hits and two strikeouts.
Nearly everyone for the Redbirds snagged a hit in the contest, with three players driving in two runs. The hitless performance was not what Weber State envisioned after a dominant first game on Friday, but they didn’t let the shortcomings affect them moving forward.
Saturday, February 18
Oregon State at Weber State 0-3
Saturday started with Weber State’s most impressive performance of the weekend, beating the Oregon State Beavers 3-0. The Beavers took part in the 2022 College World Series, crowing them as one of the top eight teams in the nation last year, so to take them head-on and keep them scoreless on two hits is a remarkable feat by the Wildcats.
McCuistion and Chong helped Weber State’s offensive front again Saturday. McCuistion drove in the first run with a double down the right-field line, supplying the first of her three hits on the day. Chong homered two at-bats later, tacking on the third run on a sac fly in the next inning. Weber State’s three runs on eight hits were enough to get over the hump thanks to the masterclass from Amanda Johnson, yet again.
Johnson followed up her complete game with another on Saturday, pitching seven scoreless while striking out five, walking one, and allowing two hits. She was credited with the win (3-2) and has proven to be a force-to-be-reckoned with in the early season.
Weber State at Grand Canyon 0-6
It was another scoreless outing from the Wildcat offense, producing a measly four hits against the Grand Canyon Antelopes. Hatfield struggled again in the outing, giving up six runs on nine hits and three walks but striking out three. She survived deeper in this game than the last, going 5.1 innings before Jayci Finch finished with a perfect two strikeouts in her 0.2.
Despite the lopsided score, McCuistion continued to show her hitting dominance, adding another two hits in the contest. The fifth-year infielder is averaging .400 against some of the nation’s top teams, and she is ready to run it back for another Big Sky title.
Sunday, February 19
Weber State at #22 Arizona State
Weber State’s final battle was against the #22-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils. It was very back-and-forth between the teams, with Arizona State getting on the board first off of a Jazmyn Rollin single to right field that scored Yanni Acuna. The Wildcats responded with an Emily Ruhl homer to left center in the second inning, Chong giving Weber State the lead with a double to left center that scored McCuistion. The Sun Devils would respond, though, and get the last laugh. Makenna Harper’s single to right field in the fourth would score Acuna for her second run of the game, then Jazmine Hill would take back the lead for good with her homer to left center.
The result wasn’t what they hoped for, but Weber State’s battle against a ranked opponent shows the grit of their roster. Amanda Johnson (3-3) was credited with the loss, pitching all six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, three walks, and four strikeouts. Johnson has shown that – if she is on the mound – the Wildcats can take down any team.
The 3-7 Wildcats head to St. George for the Utah Tech Tournament next week for a four-game outing against Saint Louis and the tournament’s namesake, Utah Tech.
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