U softball ready for San Diego

The Ute softball team kicks off the Campbell/Cartier Tournament Wednesday in San Diego. The four-day tournament lasts until Sunday and features an imposing field.

Pool play starts against No. 20 Fresno State, who is making its 2005 debut. The 5-2 Utes hope to capitalize on their early season experience.

They’ve already had their share of ups and downs. Last weekend the Utes went 2-2 with shaky play in Las Vegas.

Coach Mona Stevens hopes the road treats them better this time than last time, when weather cancelled play and altered the schedule.

“Last weekend, we wanted our shot at Oregon State and Hawaii, but we lost those games to rain,” Stevens said, adding, “We are looking forward to the chance of playing teams like Fresno State and Notre Dame.”

The Fighting Irish (3-2) are on the verge of being nationally ranked, and will present a tough challenge for the Utes on Friday morning. Immediately after, the U will face the Santa Clara Broncos (5-5).

Things don’t get any easier from there.

The Utes had a disappointing showing against No. 8 Michigan, and they will be vying to prove themselves against No. 3 UCLA.

The Bruins boast seven hitters with averages of .370 or higher, and both of their starting pitchers have earned run averages below 2.00.

As the defending Mid-American Conference champion, the Central Michigan Chippewas won’t allow any opportunity to relax in Sunday’s action.

The U pitching staff is led by the power of Brianna Gourdin (2-1, 1.11 ERA, 22 strikeouts) and the control of Lindsie Nielsen (3-1, 3.32 ERA, 1 walk). The Ute pitching staff has held opponents to 13 earned runs in its first seven contests.

The members of the offense have chipped in 41 runs for their part, but they will look to get more consistent production in the future.

Ute freshmen have been plenty consistent, and are proving very capable in the early weeks of the season.

“I think the freshmen were great last weekend,” Stevens said. “Diana Phillips continues to show how special she is. Meghan Crouse is always getting on base and Sharee Fonoti is a solid shortstop.”

The Utes are hitting .352 on the season. Ivette Hernandez has three home runs and Phillips is hitting at an impressive .444 clip.

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