Softball: Head Coach Amy Hogue Gives Back, Tries To Take Utah To The Top

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Utah Women's 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 started playing baseball when she was five years old and continued until sixth grade, when she switched over to softball. Once Hogue started playing softball, she fell in love with it. When she tried out for her high school team at Alta in Sandy, Utah, she was immediately faced with adversity.

“I was small, and I had just turned from a right-handed hitter to a left-handed hitter on the first day of tryouts,” Hogue said. “My coach switched me from a righty to a lefty, so high school was challenging and frustrating for the first couple of years.”

After high school, Hogue chose to play softball at the U. When she was recruited by Utah, Norma Carr was the head coach, but future Utah head coach Jo Evans was recruiting Hogue’s friend and teammate at Alta, Aimee Rice. Evans, then-head coach at Colorado State, signed Rice, who was a year ahead of Hogue in school, and recommended that Hogue take a look at Colorado State.

“[Rice] said, ‘This is the best coach ever and you need to consider playing for her,’ so I was all the sudden interested in Colorado State,” Hogue said.

Utah Women's Softball team listens to head coach Amy Hogue and assistant coach Cody Thomson and volunteer assistant coach Russ Paskins after the game vs. the ASU Sun Devils at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Saturday, April 16, 2016
Utah Women’s Softball team listens to head coach Amy Hogue and assistant coach Cody Thomson and volunteer assistant coach Russ Paskins after the game vs. the ASU Sun Devils at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Saturday, April 16, 2016

Evans would go on to be named head coach at Utah in 1990, and Hogue followed her there. As a Ute, Hogue excelled. In her freshman year, Hogue went 28-16, winning the Western Athletic Conference outright, then winning the conference tournament. As a freshman, Hogue experienced the Women’s College World Series, but it didn’t seem too special.

“I came from a program that won a lot of games all the time, so when I went to college and we won all the time, it seemed kind of normal to me,” Hogue said.

The Utes would go back to Oklahoma City for the World Series in Hogue’s senior year.

“I knew at that point how big of a deal it was to make it to the final eight,” Hogue said. “I remember every moment of being there, and I didn’t take it for granted.”

Hogue finished her playing career at Utah as an All-American and still holds spots on the Utah career records board for at-bats and stolen bases. Hogue’s 101 hits, .455 batting average and 222 at-bats in the 1994 season are still the all-time high for a season.

Hogue was a graduate assistant at Utah, an assistant coach at Alta, who was then an assistant coach at Utah. Her first head coaching job was at Salt Lake Community College. Hogue was the first head coach in SLCC’s new softball program and had tremendous success, finishing her five year reign at SLCC with a .706 winning percentage. In 2004, Hogue’s Bruins finished sixth in the NJCAA World Series.

“That was pretty special, to be able to win a lot of games as a head coach pretty early on,” Hogue said. “We built that program from scratch, and we did nothing but win and win and win.”

However, Hogue knew it was time to move on, and Utah came calling. Hogue interviewed with Utah a year prior to getting the job, but Utah gave the position to Angie Jacobs. Jacobs presided over a 5-14 season in conference play and was fired after 2007 and Mary Bowman — Utah’s senior women’s administrator — delivered the call that would change Hogue’s life.

“My niece was over — she was a softball player — and I said, ‘You’ll never guess what that was,’” Hogue said. “My niece said, ‘Well, are you going to take it?’ and I said, ‘Are you kidding? Of course I am.’”

Hogue made her first recruiting pitch in the laundry room to her niece, but her niece ended up playing elsewhere.

Hogue had two losing seasons and two winning seasons in the Mountain West before Utah moved to the Pac-12.

“At one point, we faced nine ranked teams in 12 days. I remember thinking, ‘That’s it, that’s the hardest thing that I’ve done in my life,’” Hogue said. “That about killed me. I knew it was going to be hard to win games, but I underestimated how hard it was going to be on my heart.”

Hogue fought through it, and in 2015, for the first time in her tenure, she coached her alma mater to the postseason when Utah advanced to regionals. This season, the Utes are in second-place in the Pac-12 and have a shot at the title.

“To win our conference and receive an automatic bid to go to postseason is going to be a really, really difficult thing to do,” Hogue said. “Our goal is to get back to the College World Series and we’re getting close.”

Even with all the on-field success, one of Hogue’s favorite parts of coaching is watching her girls grow up before her eyes.

“These young ladies turn from girls to women right before my eyes. I get to see them choose a career, some of them I get to see who they choose to marry,” Hogue said. “I talk to the mothers and they say every Mother’s Day they think of me because I helped co-parent their child.”

After playing and coaching at Utah for 15 years, it has a special place in her heart. Now, Hogue is giving back to the university that she loves.

“I wanted to give back that experience to anyone else that I could, so to come back and try to give a bunch of young ladies the experience I got is a dream come true,” Hogue said.

j.coles@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JoeColesChrony

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