Softball: Castro, Utes walk off, complete sweep of No. 22 ASU

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Utah Women's Softball celebrates after junior Anissa Urtez (17) scored the last run during the game vs. the ASU Sun Devils at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Utah softball team swept the No. 22-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils over the weekend at Dumke Family Softball Stadium in Salt Lake City. The Utes started with a 10-2 victory on Saturday and carried that momentum into a 3-1 win on Sunday.

To finish things off, Utah completed the sweep in impressive fashion on Monday, besting the Sun Devils in a 6-5 walk-off win, their first of the year.

“That was exciting. We needed that,” said head coach Amy Hogue. “We want us to flip the tune a little bit and consider ourselves the comeback team.”

Utah Women's Softball junior Bridge Castro (3) gets thrown out at second base during the game vs. the ASU Sun Devils at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Saturday, April 16, 2016
Utah Softball junior Bridge Castro (3) gets thrown out at second base during the game vs. the ASU Sun Devils at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Utes took advantage in the final game against ASU on Monday with the opportunity to earn their second series sweep of a ranked team this season. Utah grabbed another early lead when Maddie Roth, pinch-hitting for Shelby Pacheco, earned an RBI after a sacrifice fly scored Stewart from third for the Utes’ first run of the contest.

But Arizona State took the lead from Utah in the top of the fourth inning. Nikki Girard tied the game up on a RBI triple, and then Palacios gave the lead to the Sun Devils with some heads up baserunning, running home when the Utes were trying to tag out Soria in a run-down between first and second.

In Utah’s half of the fourth, a double from Dickman set up runners on second and third with no outs, and the Utes cashed in, as Stewart cleared the bases with a triple to retake the lead, 3-2. Utah added another run on a RBI single by Shelby Pacheco.

In the top of the fifth, ASU loaded the bases with no outs and scored two runs to tie the game up. Hailey Hilburn entered in the fifth for Donovan with two outs and runners on first and second, but got out of the inning.

ASU took a 5-4 lead after Hilburn overthrew Castro on a routine pitcher to first throw in what would have been the third out of the sixth inning. The throw allowed Chilson to come home.

In the seventh, Utah scored the tying run off Kessler, who had just thrown her 121st pitch, when Kristen Stewart drove a ball to shallow left field to score Urtez. Next up, Bridget Castro drove Kessler’s pitch over the left fielder’s head to bring in Bowen for the 6-5 win.

“I was so happy. I just had a smile right away, I just knew that we had won that game and we had scored,” Castro said of her thoughts right after the ball landed in left field.

To start the series off on Saturday, the field at Dumke was dolled up more than usual for Utah Softball’s 40th-anniversary celebration. The grass was mowed into a pattern, and a giant, red Block U had been painted in center field. The sold-out crowd included Ute softball greats like Kristin Arbogast, Kathy Olsen and Kate Dickman.

The beginning of the evening was delayed after the power at the stadium was blown after the national anthem singer hit a high note. Once the game did begin, however, the contest went much smoother for the Utes, who clobbered the Sun Devils 10-2.

Hannah Flippen was 2-for-2 with four RBIs, two runs and a home run in the game. Freshman Ally Dickman also had a huge night, driving in three runs and going a perfect 3-for-3 in the contest.

On the defensive side for the Utes, Katie Donovan earned her 14th win of the season, going the full length of the ballgame and only allowing two runs to Arizona State, who came into the series scoring nearly six runs per game. Donovan also struck out six Sun Devils.

Utah Softball head coach Amy Hogue talks with junior Bridget Casteo (3) during the game vs. the ASU Sun Devils at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Saturday, April 16, 2016
Utah Softball head coach Amy Hogue talks with junior Bridget Castro (3) during the game vs. the ASU Sun Devils at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Saturday, April 16, 2016

Utah scored in the first inning of play, with Anissa Urtez and Heather Bowen crossing home plate on an error and an RBI from Dickman, respectively. ASU responded in the second inning, tying the game with an RBI from Katee Aguirre and an error from Donovan.

Utah then scored three in the second on Flippen’s 12th home run of the year to take a 5-2 lead. Both sides were held scoreless until the fifth, when Utah tacked on another run courtesy of a Bridget Castro RBI.

Utah exploded for four runs on five hits in the sixth inning, and the game was called due to the mercy rule.

“We came out with the right mindset, and we were ready to play. It was really exciting to be at home, and I think that was a big advantage,” Urtez said.

On Sunday, the Utes played under the lights at home for the first time all season and turned in an even more impressive pitching performance, holding ASU to only one hit in a 3-1 victory over the Sun Devils.

Miranda Viramontes and Donovan teamed up to hold ASU well below its six-runs-per-game average. Viramontes went 5 and 1/3 innings, only giving up one run and collecting her seventh win. Donovan entered in the sixth, striking out three and allowing no hits.

“Miranda started really solid, and so our hitters felt freed up,” Hogue said.

Kay Kay Fronda turned in a great performance at the plate, driving her fourth home run of the year to left field. Kristen Stewart and Castro also drove in runs en route to Utah’s win.

This time, Utah didn’t score in the opening frame, but did draw first blood in the second inning. Stewart drove in Sammy Cordova to take an early lead. The Utes added to their lead on an opposite field home run for Fronda to finish with three runs.

“I’ve been struggling lately hitting, and so I just really wanted to focus on seeing the ball all the way, and having a good angle to it, and it worked today,” Fronda said.

With the sweep, the Utes are now tied for third in the Pac-12 with an 8-4 conference record. Next up, Utah will stay home to host Stanford for a three-game series this upcoming weekend.

j.coles@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JoeColesChrony

 

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