Desert drought

By By Tom Quinn and By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

The U women’s softball team continued its hit-and-miss play during last weekend’s Louisville Slugger Desert Classic, posting a 2-3 overall record with wins over Florida International and Seton Hall and losses to Oklahoma State, Oregon and Hawaii.

In contrast to the spotty defensive play that plagued the Utes at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., it was the offense that came and went in Sin City. Utah’s inability to put runners on base was particularly evident in Sunday’s 6-0 loss at the hands of the Ducks and 3-1 defeat by the Rainbow Wahine.

“Our pitching did well enough for us to win this afternoon,” U head coach Angie Jacobs said after the loss to Hawaii. “But our offense didn’t work together to put runs up on the board. We will not start scoring runs until we string hits together.”

The Ute sluggers were equally lethargic in their first game of the weekend, a 2-1 loss to Oklahoma State. The Utes managed only three hits and left eight runners on base as they started the tourney off on the wrong foot.

“The team didn’t come out on the same page in game one,” Jacobs said. “Our hitters were trying to hit home runs instead of stringing hits together. Oklahoma State’s pitching was very hittable, and I think we let that one slip away.”

As consistently inconsistent as they are, the Utes had no trouble scoring in their wins over the FIU Panthers and Seton Hall Pirates, beating the former 8-1 and the latter 10-0. Utah recorded an impressive 13 hits against the Panthers, and Diana Phillips and Kara Foster each homered, driving in five runs between them.

“We did some great things in finishing with a win against Florida International,” Jacobs said. “It was a complete team effort.”

While the rest of the team struggled through hot and cold phases, Utah’s pitching staff performed well from start to finish. Meghan Dyer and Karina Cannon each picked up a win over the weekend, and freshman Haili Squire showed that she can be a major factor in spite of her relative inexperience.

“Overall, I thought that our pitching was outstanding this weekend,” Jacobs said. “All three of our pitchers did very well. Haili had a strong finish in the circle for us. Closing as well as she does gives this team the confidence it needs.”

Although the Utes’ performance was far from perfect, Jacobs is confident that the team is moving in the right direction. She attributes Utah’s rapidly improving play to the Utes’ growing tendency to practice what the coaching staff preaches.

“What’s happening is we are starting to apply what we practice every time we approach the plate here in the game,” Jacobs said. “And, as a result, we are starting to be more successful.”

Of course, true success won’t come until the Utes find a way to play their best every time they step up to the plate. Until then, softball fans will have to be content with wins over lesser programs like Seton Hall and Florida International and the occasional upset of a top-25 team like Texas.

“We finished this weekend strong,” Jacobs said. “We’ll take what we’ve learned here into practice this week and build upon it for next weekend in El Paso.”