Heading to Seattle, Washington for its next three games, the University of Utah softball team is facing off in a rematch against No. 1 Washington. Last year, the Huskies knocked the Utes out of the playoffs before advancing to the College World Series.
Utah is coming off of three losses to UCLA. The Utes lacked in pitching and hitting, although Alyssa Palacios and Kelly Martinez both had successful weekends, batting over .300 and scoring three times each.
Going to Washington, the Utes know they need to prepare for this challenging weekend ahead. The Huskies are a top team, but Utah has faced tough competitors in the past few weeks, preparing the group for the series.
“We know that we will be facing a good pitching staff at Washington, so it is going to be essential for us to keep it simple in the box and to stay short to the ball,” said junior Ally Dickman. “Staying confident and learning from each at-bat and each failure and staying positive and confident regardless of what the result is, is important.”
The Utes will be focusing primarily on the dominant pitchers they will face. They’ve studied which pitches will potentially be thrown at them and what they will need to throw in any given situation. As long as the Utah batters stay smart in the box and focus, they expect a successful weekend.
“I am trying to improve on my defense and being more aggressive. I learned last week that a lot of girls hit it to my right side, so I know to play more off the line next time,” said freshman infielder Alyssa Palacios. “I think that this weekend I will also be working on being less aggressive in the box, because the pitchers will be throwing less strikes. I will take advantage when I need to but I will also try to take the walks that I am handed.”
All of the players are still getting used to a new environment and the experiences that come with conference play. This transition is challenging, but the payoffs are high, and the Pac-12 is unique for each player.
Against the Huskies, the Utes have never won a series in the seven they have competed. Last season, two games went into extra innings, but Utah still lost in the end.
The Utes did find small successes in those losses. Alyssa Barrera, BreOnna Castaneda and Martinez all hit over .300.
“I think our team had done a really good job of learning and growing from each game, even though sometimes it is not reflected in the scores,” Dickman said. “I still feel like everybody is doing a good job of taking each game, each at-bat and learning from out and grinding through the process. That is a lot easier to do in Pac-12 because you face the same team three times in a row, and we have been doing well at that. … It will pay off in the long run.”
The first game will be at 5 p.m. PT on Friday evening.