For the first time in its program’s history, the University of Utah softball team will host a NCAA Regional. The NCAA Tournament begins on Thursday, and it continues until Saturday at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium. The Utes will first face Fordham on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. MT following the opening matchup between BYU and Mississippi State. If Utah wins, it will face the winner of game one. If the Utes fall to Fordham, they will play the loser of the first game. From there, the loser of game three will face the winner of game four. On the final day, game six will be between the game three winner and game five champ. If necessary, game seven will take place between the winner and loser of game six.
“When we were sitting there watching the selection show, my stomach was turning the whole time,” said second baseman Hannah Flippen. “When Utah popped up there and we saw that little 11, which meant that we were hosting, I was just overwhelmed with emotion. I’m just happy we get to play some more games on our field, and hopefully they will be some good ones.”
In 2016, the Utes won three of the four games at regionals, and that allowed them to move on to Super Regionals, which was the first time for the program. After not making it far into supers, head coach Amy Hogue said the team set a new goal for themselves to achieve more in 2017. With the Utes hosting regionals, they feel like they have a better chance to achieve their ultimate goal of making it to make the final eight.
Not only will the seniors get to play as Utes in the postseason for their final time, but the freshmen will get to experience first-hand what the tournament is all about.
“It was a moment of relief,” said freshman outfielder Alyssa Barrera. “We were all happy for the senior class because they reached one of their goals of the four years they have been here. So, just to be a part of that and see the classes that started from the bottom and made it to where we are right now is really cool.”
With this being Barrera’s first regional, she is ready to enjoy every moment of it with her teammates. Just like the rest of the team, Barrera’s plan is to give the upcoming games her all and leave everything on the field.
In order to go far in regionals, Barrera said her team needs to continue to do what it does best, which is focusing on itself rather than who it is playing. If the Utes can attack right off the bat, Barrera sees no problem with her team advancing in the tournament.
“Our goal is to win the regionals,” Hogue said. “It has nothing to do with anyone we are playing, so we haven’t talked specifically about any of the teams yet. We mostly focus on the stuff we need to do, how we play our best, what we are great at and make sure we are ready to do those things. Our focus has always been on us, and that’s how we do it all year. It’s not anything different this weekend.”
The Utes are ready to get to work, and they are looking forward to a weekend full of action.
“It’s the same game of softball, and it’s postseason now,” Flippen said. “It’s a fresh start. We’ve talked about postseason being a new season, so I’m not going to try to think about it too much. I just want to go out there, have some fun and play the game that I love to play.”