Escaping from the snow and cold temperatures in their second outing of the new year, the University of Utah softball team is traveling to Clearwater, Florida to compete in the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational tournament.
The Utes will face five teams over the course of three days, including No. 18 Kentucky, No. 17 Oklahoma, No. 23 Ohio State, No. 6 Tennessee and Hofstra.
Utah faced Tennessee last season in the Kajikawa Classic. They fell 6-5, but they put up a good fight against a top 20 team.
The Utes got up early with a 3-0 lead, and they extended that to 5-0 and held the Volunteers to no runs until the fifth when Tennessee caught up with two runs on the board. The Utes fell in the next two innings when they gave up four unanswered runs.
The last time that Utah beat Tennessee was during the 2017 season at the Mary Nutter Classic. The Utes pulled a 3-0 win in their first Top-25 victory since 2015.
Utah has not faced the other four teams over the last two seasons, so they will be seeing some new faces on the diamond.
Utah is coming off of a winning weekend in Arizona where they went 4-1 in a three-day tournament.
The Utes saw victories against Bradley, Kansas, CSU Northridge and Western Michigan. Hailey Hilburn and Sydney Sandez carried the team on the mound for the team, and together, they pitched a scoreless game against CSUN.
Senior Ally Dickman launched the first home run of the year to bring in three runs in an 8-2 victory against Western Michigan on Friday.
This strong start for the team has been a morale booster for the Utes, as they ended the 2018 season with a 20-30 overall record and a 2-21 Pac-12 conference record. The Utes landed in the last place slot in the league during their last season. The Utes, however, are looking to improve overall during this year, and with a number of new players on the roster, they should be able to do just that.
The first game for the Utes will be Friday, Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. MT against No. 18 Kentucky in Clearwater, Florida.