Softball: Utes hope to keep winning streak

Senior Shay Shaum during a game in April 2012. Shaum and the Utes return to action after a nine-day break. The Utes travel to Orem this afternoon to face UVU. Madeline Smith / The Daily Utah Chronicle File Photo
Senior Shay Shaum during a game in April 2012. Shaum and the Utes return to action after a nine-day
break. The Utes travel to Orem this afternoon to face UVU.
Madeline Smith / The Daily Utah Chronicle File Photo

After a nine-day break, the Utes will take on Utah Valley this afternoon in Orem. Utah is coming off a seven-game winning streak two weekends ago, and the team hopes to continue its momentum against the Wolverines.
Losing momentum is a legitimate worry since the Utes have had so much time off, but catcher Shay Shaum and head coach Amy Hogue said the break couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I think it’s good for all of our bodies to recover,” Shaum said. “It does suck losing the momentum a little bit, but I still think that we can carry that on.”
Not only did Utah need to recover from the regular wear and tear of the season after three consecutive weekends on the road, but much of the team had gotten sick with the flu.
“When you get back from three weekends on the road, a weekend off is always a good thing,” Hogue said.
The Wolverines should also be feeling queasy with the prospect of facing a hot team like the Utes. Utah has improved in both hitting and pitching since opening the season with struggles in both of those departments. In their last five games, the Utes have outscored opponents 24-10.
UVU (5-5) will rely on its pitching staff to beat Utah. The Wolverines have only scored more than five runs once this season, an 11-1 win against Nevada. However, when limiting their opponents to five or less runs, they are 5-1. UVU’s staff is led by Tiffany Mills, who has four victories and is averaging five strikeouts per start.
“If you let a team like Utah Valley stay in the game with you for too long, they’ll beat you,” Hogue said. “That will be our focus with our team going into that game … to come out and score runs early and often.”
If the Utes can do that, their odds of winning will continue to increase. The Wolverines are 0-4 in games when their opponent has scored more than five runs, something the Utes have already done six times this season. Also, Utah Valley is 0-4 when its opponent scores first.
With the game being played so close to home for the Utes, one would expect it to feel like a home game. Despite this, Shaum said the Wolverines are an improved team from years past with a strong pitching staff, players that run bases well and good hitters.
Just like Utah, the Wolverines have had time off, and Hogue said she guarantees they have spent this time preparing for the Utes. She described UVU as one of the best teams in the state, and they see Utah as a major rival.
“They want to beat us badly every year, and it’s one of those games that is always a battle,” Hogue said. “They play us tough every year.”