Prior to the season, the University of Utah softball team wasn’t ranked nationally. Slowly but surely, however, Utah crept its way up the list, and at the beginning of March it was the No. 16 team in the country, but their up and down performances have moved them up and down within the polls since then.
Although the Utes had slipped to No. 20 heading into their first Pac-12 game of the season, their recent sweep against the UCLA Bruins has placed the Utes at No. 11, the highest the team has been since polls began in 1995. Head coach Amy Hogue says the polls don’t really matter.
“This team wants to finish in the final eight of the country so if that’s really their goals, then 11th wouldn’t be anything that would make them happy,” Hogue said. “Of course it’s nice to be recognized nationally, but we don’t put a lot of value in it.”
The Utes high standing was short-lived when in their next Pac-12 game, the Utes were bested by Oregon in both games, and they dropped four spots in the rankings. This past weekend the Utes swept the Stanford Cardinal, but it remained stagnant in the polls at No. 20.
“The polls are subjective,” Hogue said. “If you get caught in that stuff, it distracts us from what we really want to do.”
Viramontes Stepping Up Her Game
Junior Miranda Viramontes has been one of many strong suits for the Utah softball season this year. When the Utes bested the Bruins on the road in Los Angeles, Calif., she held a .64 ERA, and she struck out six batters, all without allowing anyone to walk.
In her career, Viramontes is 7-1 with 200 strikeouts and has an ERA of 1.22, putting her at No. 10 nationally with walks per seven innings.
Hogue is proud of the numbers that Viramontes has put up in the past few weeks and calls Viramontes the unsung hero of the team because of her ability to make the Utes believe that they are a final eight team.
“Miranda is having the year of her life,” Hogue said. “She is pitching as well as I’ve ever seen her throw.”
Racking up the awards
Earlier this season, 30 of the top NCAA softball players were selected to be named as candidates for the 2017 Senior CLASS Award, and Hannah Flippen made the list.
“[Being named to that list] was a huge honor,” Flippen said. “To be in that group and to be associated with all of those other senior students, it just a great honor to be recognized. I think all of those candidates are worthy of the award.”
Having the highest batting average of any Ute with a percentage of .386, Flippen has received multiple awards in her college career. Last year, Flippen was named an All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, an Academic All-American First team by CoSIDA and she was named 2016 Pac-12 Player of the Year.
More might be in store for Flippen this year as she was named to the Player of the Year Watch List. While Flippen is grateful for the success in the sport that has allowed her to be recognized as player of the year, all she is focused on is the game she has to play.
“My goals this year are more oriented towards this team, just giving it all to my team because it’s my senior year,” Flippen said. “I’m not trying to worry about any of the individual awards.”