Softball: Utes Prepare For Weekend Series With Sun Devils

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Utah Women's Softball junior Bridget Castro (3) stans at the plate ready for the pitch in the game vs. the BYU Cougars at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Wednesday, March 15, 2016

Honoring its 40th anniversary this weekend, Utah softball prepares to take on No. 22 Arizona State in a three-game Pac-12 series at Dumke Family Softball Stadium.

Although the Sun Devils come into the series ranked in the top 25, they are second-to-last in the Pac-12 standings with a 3-6 conference record.

Leading Arizona State on offense are Chelsea Gonzales and Jennifer Soria. Gonzales has 11 home runs on the year, has scored 24 times, has 39 RBIs and is batting .333. Soria has 11 total home runs, has crossed home plate 39 times and has a .342 batting average.

The Utes hope to contain the Sun Devils by continuing to play to their own strengths and focusing on what they can do to get the win.

“We don’t worry so much about our opponent,” said Utah head coach Amy Hogue. “It’s about the things that we do. We coach them up on the things that they do well not so much on about what [other teams] do that we have to defend.”

Hogue also said confidence is a big key going into the series, considering the caliber of the team they will be facing.

“Just continuing to feel confident in all the things that they do,” Hogue said. “We’re going to have to use our whole lineup, they’re going to have to use their whole lineup, so the game is just going to keep changing, and we just have to keep believing in the things that we’re good at.”

The Utes are currently on a two-game winning streak, taking the final game against Cal in Berkeley and shutting out a Weber State offense that averages almost six runs per game. Utah will need to rely on its pitching staff to keep the win streak going. The Utes will also need some help from their defense, which ace Katie Donovan says is a big reason for their success.

After the Weber State victory, Donovan attributed a lot of the credit for the win to the defense behind her.

“I had to trust my defense that they would pick it up behind me, which they did,” Donovan said. “They did an awesome job.”

In the circle for Arizona State are Kelsey Kessler, Dale Ryndak and Breanna Macha. Kessler is the go-to pitcher, appearing in 31 of the Sun Devils’ 40 games. Kessler has a 2.59 ERA and a 13-6 record. Up next for Arizona State is Ryndak, who has a 3.38 ERA, an 8-2 record in 18 appearances and 10 starts this season. Macha is 6-5 with a 3.91 ERA.

The Utes and Sun Devils square off on April 16, 17 and 18. First pitch is at 4 p.m. MT on Saturday, and 7 p.m. MT on Sunday and Monday.

j.coles@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JoeColesChrony

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