For the second straight year, the University of Utah softball team has advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals and beginning Friday, the Utes will face Pac-12 foe Washington for the opportunity to play in the College World Series.
“I think since it’s our second one and we are going to play someone we have already played, we are very confident,” said senior outfielder Delilah Pacheco. “It’s not our first run so everyone is pretty confident in what we are doing right now.”
The Utes finished their regular season with a 36-14 overall record, and they went 13-9 in Pac-12 play to finish fifth in the conference. Utah also finished last season with 13 league wins, which was a program record.
In the NCAA postseason, Utah has an all-time record of 24-32, including a 23-24 record in regional games. Last season, the Utes advanced onto supers for the first time since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament, but they dropped two of three contests to No. 8 Florida State. Sophomore Hailey Hilburn said that outcome was a learning experience for her team to reflect on heading into the competition this weekend.
“Everyone is really excited right now and really, we are just excited and ready to get out on the field,” Hilburn said. “We are going into attack mode, and we are going to do the best we can.”
This weekend will mark the second time the Utes will take on Washington this season. The Huskies previously swept Utah at Dumke Field, but the Utes believe supers is the perfect opportunity for revenge.
“I’ve been thinking of it as BYU,” Pacheco said. “We had never beaten them in preseason so in postseason when it mattered, we beat them, and that’s how I’m kind of thinking going into this game is we lost to Washington a couple of weekends ago, but now it’s our chance to beat them.”
Hilburn said her team is sticking with the same game plan they have followed the entire season, which is to stay short to the ball, stay on top of it and let the pitcher provide the power.
While Pacheco and Hilburn were both with the team last season when it first made it to supers, freshman Alyssa Barrera is new to the whole experience, and she is looking forward to what is ahead.
“I’m really excited,” Barrera said. “Obviously we plan on to kick some butt out there, and [I’m] just taking it all in. As a freshman, I’m not going to take it lightly. My plan is to come in and be fearless against Washington.”
While it’s Barrera’s first supers, it may be the last chance for this year’s seniors to play together. However, Pacheco doesn’t see this weekend has her final college outing. She wants to take the next step and go to the College World Series. Pacheco knows with the veteran experience she has, she needs to lead her team, and she doesn’t want to end the season the way Utah did last year.
“I think we are just going to go off what we did this past weekend and go off the last game and take it into this weekend,” Pacheco said. “We aren’t really going to change anything from the games before. We are just going to go in confident.”
Barrera loves seeing the smiles on the senior’s faces, and that’s one of the reasons why she loves playing right now.
“It’s really cool that from where they started and where they are now that they have been reaching their goals within the four years,” Barrera said. “I know they aren’t done though, so I’ll do whatever I can to help these seniors reach their goals because if anything, I’m playing for the seniors. They have made this whole year special for me.”
Friday’s first pitch is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m MT followed by Saturday’s game at 7 p.m. MT. If Sunday’s game is necessary it will take place at 8 p.m. MT.