The University of Utah softball team will play five games beginning Friday, Feb. 24 in Palm Springs, Calif.
The 8-0 Utes are poised to keep their winning streak alive this weekend as they travel to Palm Springs for the Mary Nutter Classic. It will be the first big challenge for the Utes this season as they are slated to play No. 13 Tennessee right out of the gate on Friday, followed by No. 7 LSU on Saturday.
“This weekend will be a big test,” said head coach Amy Hogue. “We have been used to playing with a lead, and have not had very many battles yet this year.”
The Utes are coming off two impressive weekends to open their season. At the Kajikawa Classic, they outscored opponents 47-5. The following weekend saw the Utes pick up three more wins against CSU Bakersfield, Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount. The highlight of the weekend came in the contest against CSU Bakersfield as junior Miranda Viramontes threw a perfect game to give the Utes an 8-0 victory. Viramontes is the first Ute to throw a perfect game since Meghan Dyer accomplished the feat against UTEP in 2006.
The team has recorded six shutouts in eight games in this young season, and last week’s No. 15 ranking has been a high mark for the program. That confidence will be needed as they prep to face two of the top programs in the country.
The Utes’ first big test will be No. 13 Tennessee. The Lady Vols have their own high powered offense, averaging 10.2 runs per game in 10 victories this season. They are ranked in the top three in the country in scoring, batting average and on base percentage, while ranking eighth in slugging percentage and 13th in doubles per game.
If they can get by the Vols, the next task will be taking on the Lady Tigers of LSU. The Tigers enter Nutter Classic with a No. 7 ranking, and a 9-1 record. They have victories over Oklahoma State and Penn State this season, and their one loss coming at the hands of the Nittany Lions. Unlike the Utes and Volunteers, the Tigers have played in several tight games this season. They have shown, however, that they can be an offensive powerhouse. They have scored 14 runs in two of their games, and 10 in another this season.
The rest of the weekend shows the Utes playing Houston on Friday night, and they’ll round out the weekend on Sunday with San Diego State and Cal State Fullerton. Hogue said that while Tennessee and LSU are big games, her team will not be overlooking their other opponents.
The Utes are one one of 14 teams in the country who are undefeated going into the weekend with the chance to bring that down to at least 13 with a victory over Tennessee. The Utes will look to their early inning offensive power and their two junior powerhouse pitchers to continue the streak against some of the best in the country.