Softball: Bring on the patsies

By Jason Peterson

The U softball team might not admit it, but facing a softer schedule this week might be just what the doctor ordered.

The Utes are coming off a brutal stretch of six games, five of which were against ranked opponents, including No. 1 Arizona State, No. 14 DePaul, No. 18 Washington, No. 19 Fresno State and No. 23 Long Beach State.

During last week’s Judy Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., Utah went 2-3. One of its wins was an upset victory over DePaul, 3-2. The other came against unranked Illinois, 5-2.

Despite losing the other three games, the Utes were competitive in every contest. They lost to the other ranked teams at the Judy Garman Classic by a combined total of seven runs.

Close or not, though, the defeats still tally a mark in the loss column. The team has now dropped to 16-15 on the season after losing 12 of its last 18.

“It sucks, because we’re so good and we’re not showing it,” Utah infielder Angie Boardman said. “We hold them really well, and we just lose by a little bit, or we just have one bad inning where they score five runs or something.”

It’s no wonder that the team is in need of a pick-me-up. The Utes are sitting at a crossroads where they could either curse the makers of their schedule or knock the dirt off their cleats and keep swinging away.

Rest assured, help could be coming in the form of a gimme upcoming schedule, which features a double-header at Utah State on Wednesday and three in a row against Utah Valley State College this weekend.

The Aggies (3-17) and the Wolverines (5-17) are both struggling and could serve as a breather for the battle-tested Utes.

Starting pitcher Ashley Smuda, however, doesn’t think the team is about to pick up five freebies. One of her oft-repeated tenets is that anyone can beat anyone else on any day in softball.

Witness Thursday’s upset win over DePaul. Utah, who was down 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, rallied when Staci Hemingway, Diana Phillips and Kelly Matthews teamed up to score two runs to beat the 14th ranked Blue Demons.

“I think we did really well against them,” Boardman said. “We just didn’t hear a lot about them (so we weren’t intimidated). They’re not very good. Their pitcher wasn’t very good, and we took advantage of that.”

Utah head coach Amy Hogue expects her team to keep its guard up for the Aggies, who are led at the plate by Kelly Kaneshiro’s .311 batting average, and the Wolverines, who are anchored by Alli Bramwell’s .378 average. But leave it to Boardman to represent the team’s level of confidence despite the latest skids.

“They’ll definitely help our record,” Boardman said. “They’re good games where we could work on our weaknesses or whatever we wanna work on because we have leeway to play around a little bit.”

However, Boardman did leave herself and the team an out.

“I don’t like playing crappy teams,” she continued. “I feel like we need to prepare for our (conference) season and they’re not gonna help us. We know we’re gonna win, but obviously, if we don’t come out 100 percent, we could lose.”

The instate rivals might be just the tune-up Utah needs before beginning conference play April 3 against Colorado State.

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