Utes look to silence BYU hitters at the plate

Before the U softball team can get out and try to gain some ground in the conference race against rival BYU, the team has a game today against Southern Utah at Ute Field.

Even though the team has to focus on playing Southern Utah, the real concerns come with the two-game series against BYU.

“Every weekend is turning out to being important, since everyone is tied for first right now,” U softball coach Mona Stevens said.

Last week both Utah and BYU split series with San Diego State and UNLV.

“There is parody all around the league and everyone is beatable,” Stevens said.

With wins this weekend, the Utes can get a jump on the other teams in the conference standings, but BYU has been tough and is coming into the game with a 19-10 record.

Stevens understands what the Utes need to do in order to play well against the Cougars.

“To beat BYU, you just have to control their hitters,” Stevens said.

Freshman shortstop Jodi Norton has been great for the Cougars, as she has gotten on base and has also been able to hit for power.

Norton has a batting average of .329 and has driven in 22 runs, along with five homers.

The other power threat on BYU, who hasn’t gotten on base as much, has been first baseman Ashlyn Russell.

She leads the team with seven home runs on the season.

In order to control the hitters, the team will have to pitch well, and Brianna Gourdin has been doing just that.

Gourdin, who was named MWC Pitcher of the Week, has been doing a very good job.

“She has been on a roll lately and she will start the first game against BYU,” Stevens said. “In the second game, we will see, but we may go with Melissa Oakes.”

Pitcher Samantha Schroeder has struggled of late. She came in for relief against UVSC and was touched up, allowing four runs, before Gourdin had to come back in to finish the game.

“[Schroeder] had done really well in the past but is struggling right now,” Stevens said. “I have a lot of confidence that she will be back and doing okay.”

Another factor that may help the Utes’ pitching, or should give them an easier time, is the teams that the Cougars have faced.

“They haven’t had a tough preseason schedule and I think that may help our pitching,” Stevens said. “We just need to make sure we pitch well.”

Stevens believes the team can match the Cougars’ hitting power.

“I think we may have a more powerful lineup from top to bottom,” Stevens said.

“They have some really good players in the middle of the lineup, while I think all our players can do some damage.”

Jackie Wong will return for the Utes at second base, replacing Devina Quintero, who has done a tremendous job.

“Devina is probably more suited to third base, but she is one of the best players on the team,” Stevens said. “She got more confidence and hit really well and the results speak for themselves since she was named MWC Player of the Week.”

The Utes are coming off an eight-run performance off UVSC and may have an easier time than usual with one of the BYU pitchers injured.

“Brooke Boyce took a ball off the face and it took her out,” Stevens said. She is questionable for the season.

“It’s all going to come down to the pitching,” Stevens added.

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