Softball heads to Vegas for weekend slate of games

After a 2-3 outing last weekend in its season-opening tournament, Utah will head to Las Vegas this weekend to play in the UNLV Wilson/DeMarini Classic. The Utes have two games both Friday and Saturday, followed by a single game on both Sunday and Monday.

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Last weekend, the Utes struggled at the plate and they hope to get more love from their offense this Valentine’s Day weekend. Utah enters the tournament with a team batting average of .220 and hitting, especially early on in the tournament, will be a great indicator of the preparation the players and coaching staff put in this week.

Utah’s first game features a familiar opponent in Long Beach State. Utah has already played the 49ers twice this season, going 1-1 in those games. The Utes’ first game is where they had issues, chalking up just three hits. Their second matchup against the Long Beach State was the game that the Utah bats finally saw some promise, resulting in 10 hits.

In their games against Utah last weekend, the 49ers went with pitcher Amanda Hansen in both games, but because the Utes have have plenty of opportunities to get used to Hansen’s style, expect Long Beach State to give the nod to another pitcher this weekend.

Utah’s next games come against Seattle, No. 25 Cal-State Fullerton and Cal-State Northridge.

The Cal-State Fullerton game will provide the Utes with another great opportunity for a signature program win. The Titans enter the game 4-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of Notre Dame in the finale of the So-Cal Collegiate Classic last weekend.

Picking up a top-25 win would be huge for the program. The Utes can compete with the top tier teams in the country, evident by their close games against Texas A&M and Notre Dame last weekend. If the Utes had been able hit effectively, they may have pulled off an upset over at least one of these teams.

“We had a shot to win both games,” coach Amy Hogue noted.

But they didn’t have all elements of their game going. Without a complete well-rounded performance, it’s tough to beat a top-25 team in any sport.

The Utes conclude play with matchups against Nevada and UNLV on Sunday and Monday respectively. UNLV will prove to be a test for the Ute pitchers as the Rebels enter the tournament averaging .366 at the plate.

The young pitching staff will probably see a large amount of work again this weekend in Vegas. Freshmen Katie Donovan and Miranda Viramontes led the group last week, but sophomore Sammy Cordova, junior Kayce Nieto and senior Mariah Ramirez will also be involved in the Ute pitching rotation this weekend.

Being the second weekend of the season, the early-season jitters should be gone for Utah. The Utes have played five games together and all four freshmen have made appearances in at least one game. Now that the players have their feet wet, Utah will be looking to rack up the wins and maybe pull off some upsets in the process.

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