In its second home series of the Pac-12 season, the University of Utah softball team hosted the UCLA Bruins for three games, but the Utes had a hard time defending their home field as they dropped each game.
Despite being ahead in the seventh inning of game one, Utah fell 9-5. UCLA grabbed an early two-run lead in the first, though Utah put a run on the board to stay competitive, and the Utes eventually worked their way to a 5-4 lead. However, UCLA came back in the seventh inning with five runs to get their first win of the weekend. Sophomore Kelly Martinez had a strong day as she helped the Utes with three hits and one RBI, scoring twice herself.
Game two on Saturday had the Utes and Bruins tied 3-3 in the third inning, but they couldn’t keep up with the Bruins as UCLA went on to win 7-3.
Utah’s biggest inning was the second as it scored two runs. Starting with two singles and then a two-run double from Chandler Walter, the Utes were only trailing by one run going into the third where they managed to score one more. Utah was unable to capitalize from that point on, and UCLA ended the game with a three-run fifth inning to solidify their second victory of the series.
“I think it taught us that we can stay in it even with a top two team even though we did lose, we still scored in every game, and it wasn’t a complete blowout,” said junior Hailey Hilburn. “We just learned a lot about ourselves and about who can come up in big innings, and we just need to believe in ourselves a little more when runners get on that we can hit the ball.”
As Hilburn started on the mound for the Utes on Sunday afternoon, UCLA scored two runs for an early lead. UCLA scored four more runs in the second inning, two of those off of an RBI single, bringing its lead up to 6-0.
Utah scored its first runs of the game in the fourth inning when a double from Ryley Ball scored two. Noskin reached first and advanced Ball to third on a fielder’s choice play, and BreOnna Castaneda walked to load the bases for the second time in the game, but the inning ended with a fly out from Bowen.
UCLA scored another run in the fifth inning, and Utah answered in the fifth with two runs off of a single up the middle from Barrera for a 7-4 ball game.
Miranda Viramontes came in the sixth inning in relief and walked in one run for the Bruins, giving them an 8-4 lead. UCLA put another runner across in the seventh, leaving them with nine runs at the end of the game for a 9-4 victory.
“We didn’t come out with the wins, but we have a lot of highlights,” said senior Heather Bowen. “There were a lot of great plays on the field and we have been working towards that to get our defense back on track. We had plays and some errors and we have to fix that up, but some people got clutch hits in the situations that we needed it and I think we can focus on those positives moving forward.”
The Utes are back in action on Friday, April 6, in Seattle against Washington.