It was a wild ride for the University of Utah softball team who came out on top in the NCAA Regional and will now compete in a Super Regional. The Utes hosted their first NCAA Regional at Dumke Family Softball Stadium where they opened up the tournament against Fordham. Utah won its first game before defeating BYU twice, allowing the Utes to advance to Super Regionals for their second straight season.
“My head is still spinning, but it was awesome,” said Hannah Flippen. “It felt great. I love winning. I love winning on this field. I love winning for my teammates so it was a great feeling, and I’m glad we got the win.”
In the Utes first game against Fordham, they set the tone quickly as they shutout the Rams, 10-0. It all started with BreOnna Castaneda’s single in the first inning. Alyssa Barrera reached on an error by the third baseman, while Castaneda advanced to third. With two Utes on base, Flippen hit an RBI single to score Castaneda. Barrera was sent home when Anissa Urtez hit a sacrifice fly. Flippen followed with the last run of the inning after an RBI single from Heather Bowen.
By the end of the second, the Utes scored five more runs to take an 8-0 lead, before putting up its final two runs in the third. The Utes victory meant they would next face their in-state rival, the BYU Cougars. Both the Utes and Cougars put up a fight, but it was Utah pinch-hitter Hailey Hilburn that came up big and gave the Utes the walk-off win.
The Cougars scored the first run of the game in the second, but the Utes were quick to tie the score in the bottom of the second when Castro hit an RBI double. BYU took the lead again in the fifth, and held the Utes scoreless until the seventh and final inning of the game. Castro tied the game when Bowen doubled to send her home. Aubrey Peterson came in to pinch run for Bowen before advancing to third on a ground out. Hilburn came in to pinch hit for Pacheco, and hit an RBI single to give her team the victory.
“I was focused on the task I had, which was to get [the ball] on the green,” Hilburn said. “I thought it was going to hang a little bit longer than I wanted it to, but then when I saw it turn to come down, it went straight down.”
The Utes moved onto the final where they faced the Cougars once again after BYU won game five. This contest was to determine who would advance to Supers. The Utes took the lead in the first when Castaneda scored on a wild pitch. Barrera followed her teammate with her own run when Flippen flied out to send her home.
Utah kept its moment going throughout the entire game as it put up four more runs against BYU by the sixth. In the top of the sixth, Barrera walked and Flippen singled before Urtez hit a two-RBI double. An RBI-double from Bowen, and RBI singles from Secaira, Pacheco and Castaneda added to the Utah scoreboard. Barrera hit a sacrifice fly to score Pacheco, before an RBI single from Urtez lead to the Utes 14-0 victory.
Next up for the Utes, they will face the Seattle Regional winner in a Super Regional. Utah will find out who it faces on Sunday. The Utes will either play in Washington or again on their home grounds if Fresno State, Michigan or Montana advance.