After loose hitting, Utes look to UCLA weekend

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

Last weekend, the Utah softball team received a reality check.

After starting out the season with a hopeful 7-3 record, the Utes dropped five games at the Wildcat Invitational.

Head coach Amy Hogue said easy practices might be to blame for her team’s losing streak.

“Last weekend they were challenged more than they had been in practice and I think it’s because we have been trying to give them confidence,” Hogue said.

With only two days of practice per week, the coaching staff usually tries to give the team a chance to recover from the long weekend and work on their skills.

This week, however, practice changed to reflect the kind of challenge the Utes are going to see on the field throughout the season.

“Tuesday, we ran a practice that was so challenging it kind of broke a couple of players,” Hogue said. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I made my point. It was clear exactly what is holding us back and what we need to do to get those big wins.”

A more balanced attack from the mound is what Hogue said her team needs to win against tough teams.

Most of the Utah pitchers only throw strikes on one side of the plate, making it easy for teams to adjust in the batter’s box and get hits more easily.

“The scouting report has all this information, so by the second inning, teams are either hitting it really hard or getting walked and it’s tough to win a game like that,” Hogue said. “All we need to do is develop a pitch on the outside of the plate to keep teams honest.”

After a grueling practice Tuesday, the Utes returned to their more relaxed practice style Wednesday when the team worked solely on pitching and hitting.

Following last weekend’s poor hitting performance, batting will be the other area of focus for the Utes this weekend as they travel to San Diego to take part in the San Diego Classic.

“Hitting tends to be contagious, good or bad, and last weekend we never really got on a roll, so that’s what was contagious,” Hogue said. “I want to get on a roll right from the beginning this weekend. Whether it’s a winning or losing effort, I want to put numbers on the board.”

Hogue has more in mind than just that, however.

She wants her pitchers to be able to pitch with a comfortable lead to give them a chance to work on pitches they wouldn’t normally get a chance to throw in close games.

“The way to get better at pitching is to get a nice solid lead and let them try things,” Hogue said. “I want to help our pitchers get more comfortable by putting up runs.”

The Utes will have to be at the top of their game in pitching and hitting this weekend as they face No. 4 UCLA in the first game of the tournament.

Utah will also face Santa Clara, UC Davis, University of San Diego and Oregon in the three-day tournament.

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