Desert sluggers: U softball heads to Las Vegas for a five-game tournament

The Ute softball team will try to build on its strong start in Las Vegas this weekend at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic.

Head coach Mona Stevens anticipates a more difficult time than last weekend, when the Utes easily disposed of Southern Utah and UVSC to go 3-0.

“This tournament is going to be a little tougher,” Stevens said. “I think Hawaii and Oregon State will be tough, but we’ll be ready for each and every team. If our pitchers perform like I know they can, we should be able to stay with every team in the pool.”

The event is hosted by UNLV and takes place from Feb. 11-13. Pool play in the tournament will begin for the Utes on Friday, when they face No. 16 Oregon State and Hawaii in a double-header.

They are also slated for Saturday games against Texas Tech and Wichita State, before playing Cal Riverside on Sunday.

Hurlers Brianna Gourdin and Lindsie Nielsen are off to sizzling starts on the season. Nielsen nearly pitched a no-hitter in her Ute debut.

The U will need continued offensive support if they hope to win against the tougher competition.

The offense showed its teeth last weekend, and the Utes are hitting .385 as a team on the year. Last year they relied on home runs (with 65 they had the 5th most in the NCAA) and therefore scored runs sporadically. Stevens hopes that her team will find a more consistent, focused approach.

“Our goal this weekend is to increase our awareness during the game,” Stevens said, adding, “We need to be able to sense our priorities in the moment and make those adjustments unemotionally.”

Next week the Utes will head to California, where they are scheduled to take part tournaments in San Diego (Feb. 17-20) and Palm Springs (Feb. 25-27) before the end of the month. Their home opener is on March 15 against Southern Utah.

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