Double take

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

Following a pair of home losses to New Mexico yesterday afternoon, the U softball team could easily adopt the phrase “close, but no cigar” as its team mantra.

The Utes, much to the dismay of the fans who braved the cold weather to watch yesterday’s doubleheader, suffered through a pair of losses to the visiting Lobos. In each contest, Utah came within a few lucky bounces of taking the lead in the bottom of the seventh, only to watch a valiant comeback attempt come up just short.

“It’s always tough to lose the close ones like we did today,” said head coach Angie Jacobs. “But we need to remember that we didn’t lose this in the last inning. We lost in every inning where we didn’t match (New Mexico’s) intensity and when we didn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities.”

The first game, a low-scoring affair that the Lobos won 3-1, saw the Utes squander an impressive defensive effort with gross offensive ineptitude. Utah held one of the MWC’s top teams to just three runs on four hits, but could muster only one run off three hits of its own.

Senior Meghan Dyer got the start in the circle for the Utes and struck out nine batters in seven innings of work. Unfortunately for Utah, however, Dyer also gave up a pair of home runs that would prove to be too much for the Utes to overcome.

“A lot of people would try to put the blame on the pitching, but that’s not fair,” Jacobs said. “When we hold a team to three runs, we should be able to win. We need to start making plays at the plate.”

Junior outfielder Megan Crouse provided the Utes’ only highlight of game one when she hit her first career home run. The solo homer, which came in the sixth inning, followed the first base line before sneaking over the right-field fence.

“I was just trying to get a base hit,” Crouse said. “I thought it was going to hit the fence, but I guess I got lucky.”

The second game of the afternoon, a 6-5 New Mexico victory, followed essentially the same script as the first. The Lobos took the lead for good in the fifth inning before weathering a furious, but ultimately fruitless, Utah rally.

True freshman Haili Squire got her first career start on the hill and turned in a solid, if unspectacular, performance. Squire gave up a pair of home runs, but also made her share of athletic plays in the infield.

“Haili played well out there today,” Jacobs said. “She is definitely showing some promise.”

After a lackluster first game, the Utah offense finally found its rhythm in the second half of the doubleheader. Staci Hemmingway put the Utes on the board with a two-run round-tripper in the second inning, and fellow sophomore Andrea Hoffman added two RBI on a double in the sixth.

Although the Utes showed flashes of brilliance throughout the series with the Lobos, they had a hard time finding any silver lining in their fourth consecutive conference loss.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” Crouse said. “It’s especially hard because we fought so hard to get back into it. It was a good fight, though.”