Barring Rain, Softball to Play

By and

Coming off a weekend where the Utes downed conference foes three of four times and are currently riding their longest winning streak of the year (at three games), the U softball team gets a temporary break from conference play, when it takes on in-state rival Southern Utah.

That is, of course, if Mother Nature agrees. The weather forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain today, which could accumulate for a quarter-inch of rain. That could postpone the matchup.

But if the weather is decent, SUU comes to town this afternoon to do battle with the Utes in a doubleheader.

But the confidence level for the Utes is much higher than it has been. Two comeback victories against the Colorado State Rams and a near no hitter performance by pitcher Jennifer Pursell against New Mexico have led the Utes to believe they are among the top in the conference.

“After coming off last week and two great wins on Saturday, I feel the team is much more stable, prepared and confident about where they are going,” said U coach Mona Stevens.

“It’s amazing,” said Ute first baseman Niki Hayhurst, after the Utes wins over Colorado State. “We’ve been having such a rough season with the amount of travel and so many games in a short period of time and our really tough schedule. There’s a lot of energy coming out of us.”

Holding a 16-30 record, the Utes have done much better in Mountain West Conference play, with a 5-3 record. That’s good enough for second place behind 5-1 San Diego State. The Aztecs’ only conference loss was a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Utes on March 29 in San Diego.

Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds of SUU are 15-19 coming into their road trip, which began yesterday in Logan, Utah, against Utah State.

They are led by junior infielder Precious Gallo. Gallo returns home to Salt Lake City with a .348 batting average, 23 hits and 10 runs. Gallo’s teammate, Lacee LePrey, is doing well also, hitting .324 with 21 runs batted in and 4 home runs.

The Utes will not be outdone, however. As a team, the U is first in the conference in hits, with 293, and at-bats, at 1,195. They are also second in doubles, with 42.

The Utes rank third in home runs, with 18, led by sophomore shortstop Melissa Stahnke, with 8. Stahnke homered once this past weekend in the 3-0 win over New Mexico.

Stevens was very excited to see an active crowd at last weekend’s games. Stevens said the loud crowed helped the Utes because there was a “little excitement in the air.

“The crowd sure made it feel great,” she said. “When we have that kind of an atmosphere?I know we’ve got the talent to do it.”

The doubleheader begins at 1:30 p.m. at Ute Field.

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