Grand Canyon comes up short in season finale

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After dropping a pair of games to open the weekend on Friday night, the Grand Canyon University (27-21, 12-3 WAC) softball team fell to Utah (31-24, 8-15 Pac 12) by a final of 8-4 in the series and season finale on Saturday at the Utah Softball Stadium in Salt Lake City.

"We can look at our season and be very proud of what we accomplished and the senior class has left quite a legacy and it's a great start to our Division I transition," said head coach Ann Pierson. "We are such a different team than we were in the fall and they accepted all of the challenges we threw at them this season."

GCU recorded the first punch in the finale, scoring one in the opening frame to take an early 1-0 lead. Lauren Regester recorded her fourth RBI of the weekend, driving a two-out single to center, scoring Kelsey Barak. Barak, the previous batter, put herself in scoring position after ripping a pitch to right-center for her 13th double of the season.

Utah tied the game at one in the bottom of the second and then scored three more in the home half of the fourth to take the lead, 4-1.

GCU was able to cut into the Utes lead in the top of the fifth, plating a run to make the score 4-2. Claire Zampini, who had reached earlier on a fielder's choice, hustled home from third after a Utah wild pitch. Zampini was able to move to third after Haley Walker drew a walk and Kayla Henry tallied an infield single earlier in the inning.

Utah answered in the bottom of the fifth, scoring three times and then tacking on one more run in the sixth to extend its lead to 8-2.

Grand Canyon picked up two runs in the seventh when Zampini came around to touch home on a Barak RBI groundout. Zampini reached on an infield single to open the inning. Regester smacked her second two-out single of the game, scoring Henry and cutting the deficit to 8-4.

Stephanie Pesqueira suffered the loss in the circle. The senior right-hander and WAC Pitcher of the Year leaves GCU as the school's all-time leader in career wins. Pesqueira tossed four innings in her final game and fellow seniors Kiki Sepulveda and Janelle Christman aided the Lopes in the circle in the final game for the three Canyon hurlers.

Henry finished with a pair of hits to lead the charge at the plate and Zampini accounted for two runs scored in her final game. Zampini exits having posted the third-most hits by any GCU player during their career.

"We were hoping for different outcomes this weekend, but I'm so proud of what we accomplished and how the girls pushed each other each day and the way we persevered," concluded Pierson.

The WAC regular season champions close out the season with 27 wins, making this the ninth consecutive year the Lopes have reached the 20-win plateau. In Pierson's 11-year tenure, GCU has failed only one time to record 20 or more victories in a season.

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