Softball: Utes hit a number of milestones in weekend classic

The Utah softball team played five games in the Mary Nutter Classic over the weekend in Cathedral City, Calif. and accomplished something it hasn’t done in almost 10 years ­— beat a top 10 team. The fifth win of the tournament also was a milestone for Utah coach Amy Hogue as it was her 200th win as the Utah coach, and finished off a highly successful weekend for the Utes.

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“It was a great tournament, and it took a huge team contribution,” captain Kate Dickman said. “We used every single player and they all helped us win.”

Utah started the tournament with a dominant showing against Nevada as the Utes topped the Wolf Pack by a score of 11-0 in a game that ended in just five innings because of the mercy rule.

The clear storyline in the shutout was the performance of Utah pitcher Katie Donovan. Just two weeks after coming one out away from throwing a no-hitter, Donovan evaded that same ending, getting the last out this time around, earning her first collegiate no-hitter.

“I just trusted the pitch calls from the coaches,” Donovan said. “They’ve scouted the hitters and I just have to hit the spots they call.”

The Utes were tested a little more in their second game of the tournament against UC Santa Barbara, but still came out with a 2-0 win. In the defensive battle, Utah pitchers Donovan and Miranda Viramontes each threw four strikeouts-combining for a season high of eight for the team.

On Saturday the Utes got their biggest win of the weekend taking down No. 10 Tennessee, 4-3. It was the first time Utah defeated a top-10 team since 2006 when they topped No. 9 Michigan.

Utah jumped out to a quick start against the Volunteers, scoring a pair of runs in the first two innings. Donovan’s pitching and the defensive play held Tennessee to just four hits and Utah didn’t allow a run until the fourth inning.

Despite the historic and quality win of the Tennessee game, the Utes had yet to experience what would become the most exciting portion of their tournament.

Both of Utah’s final two games were decided in extra innings, and were done so in exciting fashion.

Against Ohio State, the Utes entered the bottom of the seventh with a 7-3 lead, and needed just three outs to secure the victory.

The Buckeyes made it difficult for the Utes, plating two quick runs and loaded up the bases before Utah had recorded a single out. Ohio State took advantage of a wild pitch to make 7-6, before scoring on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at seven.

With the Buckeyes’ winning run standing 90-feet from home, the Utes pulled together and stranded the Ohio State runner on third.

“We had the belief in each other that we could get out of the inning,” Dickman said.

Utah scored three runs in the eighth inning giving itself another opportunity to close out the game. Mariah Ramirez pitched the eighth inning for the Utes and got three straight outs to give Utah the win.

The Utes day, and drama for that matter, was only halfway done.

Utah concluded the tournament with yet another extra-inning win over Cal Poly.

Utah struggled to get things going early, but strong pitching once again kept the Utes in reach. After trailing 1-0 for a majority of the game, Utah tied it up in the 6th inning.

Both teams failed to score in the seventh, leading to another international tiebreaker. Utah couldn’t get on the board in the eighth, and things were not looking good for the team. Cal Poly had a runner on first and the winning run on third with no outs. That runner never reached home.

Utah third baseman Kristen Stewart fielded a ground ball and tagged the runner out on third then threw it to second base for the double play. Utah was then able to get out of the inning with a strikeout.

In the ninth, the Utes scored off of an RBI single from Bridget Castro to give them the lead 2-1, and then Stewart extended the lead to 3-1 with an RBI double.

Utah kept Cal Poly off the board in the bottom of the inning to hang on for the win.

“We never felt that the game was out of our hands,” Dickman said. “We proved that we could win close games, and that we can beat a top 10 team.”

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