Grand Canyon opened its initial NCAA Division I season with a 5-3 opening day win over Utah State at the Red Dirt Classic in St. George, Utah. The Antelopes went 1-1 on the day, dropping an 8-4 decision to East Carolina. The Antelopes have three more games in St. George over the next two days.
In game two, GCU got on the scoreboard first when Camree Wartman crossed the plate on a Haley Walker ground out in the top of the second. The 'Lopes did some damage in inning number three when Lauren Regester hit a three-run home run over the left field fence to advance the 'Lopes lead to 4-1.
Utah State tallied three runs of its own in the bottom half of the third, which narrowed the GCU lead to one.
With the score sitting at 4-3, Walker scored on a Claire Zampini infield single in the top of the fourth to push the lead back to 5-3.
That was all GCU needed as Kailey Regester went the distance, hurling all seven innings and not giving up an earned run. On her way to striking out two Aggie opponents, she didn't give up a hit from the fourth inning on.
In addition to her RBI and run scored, Zampini also got on base twice via walks.
"Kailey threw a great game, she really pounded the zone and challenged their hitters," said head coach Ann Pierson. "Annie Jordan was phenomenal behind the plate and threw a girl out stealing, which really halted their running game."
"Our situational hitting was pretty good against Utah State and we were able to hang in there and get a W."
In game one, ECU jumped out to an early lead after a two-run home run in the top of the first. The 'Lopes pushed a run across in their half of the frame when Kailey Regester singled to score Kayla Henry.
In the top of the third, Stephanie Pesqueira struck out two and got out of a bases loaded jam without allowing an ECU run. The score remained idle until the top of the fifth, when ECU used back-to-back home runs to jump out to a 5-1 lead and then pushed across three more runs in the top of the sixth to give the Pirates a 8-1 lead.
GCU cut into the ECU lead in the home half of the sixth when Lauren Regester collected her second hit of the contest, doubling to left center. Nicole Newbury followed Regester's at bat with a towering home run over the center field fence to cut the ECU lead to 8-3.
The 'Lopes were able to muster one more run in the bottom of the seventh before their rally ran out of time.
"We missed our spots on a few pitches and East Carolina is a very good team and they capitalized on their opportunities," said Pierson. "I thought we swung the bats really well and our girls brought a confident approach to the plate."
"We brought great energy today from start to finish and the girls never got down on each other, which was great to see and made for a fun environment," Pierson added.
This weekend's tournament in St. George marks the first games for the 'Lopes in their inaugural season at the Division I level. GCU will be back in action Saturday, as they will play Weber State (11 a.m.) and Idaho State (4 p.m.).
Fans can find tournament updates and a complete recap of Saturday's action at www.gculopes.com.
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