Utah Softball Set to Face Difficult Test Against Several Conference Opponents


The University of Utah Softball Team’s outfielders huddled up in an NCAA Softball game vs. Arizona at Dumke Family Softball Field in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday April 06, 2019.(Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer


Now 11 games into the 2021 season, the University of Utah softball team has picked up right where they left off last season, and they have begun the year with a blistering 9-2 record. Playing in the UNLV Desert Classic last weekend, Utah escaped Las Vegas on a three-game win streak and may have found their offensive stride as they averaged more than eight runs scored per contest.

After a slow start in their first two games, the Utes used the long ball as a key component for the success, hitting nine home runs as a team during the three-game winning streak. Six different Utes have had home runs this year — junior infielder Ellessa Bonstrom leads the team with seven homers and four jacks in her previous 10 plate appearances. Utah left the Desert Classic on a run of three straight games with 10 or more hits, making it six times in 11 games that the Utes have hit that mark.

In the circle, it was an up and down weekend for Utah pitchers, but Mariah Lopez capped the weekend off with a career-best of 11 strikeouts, earning the win against UNLV in her first complete game performance of her young Utah career.

Head coach Amy Hogue was effusive in her praise of Lopez’s performance.

“Mariah just introduced herself to everyone,” Hogue said. “What a day she had. It was fun to see her throw her first complete game as a Ute. She’s going to do big things for us.”

On deck for Utah is a difficult three-game stretch against three top Pac-12 opponents, beginning with the No. 8 Oregon Ducks on Sunday evening. The Ducks are undefeated so far this season, sitting at 7-0, and they have held their opponents to only seven runs on the season while scoring more than seven runs per game themselves. Power isn’t a significant part of Oregon’s offensive approach, hitting only six home runs on the season. Instead, the Ducks rely on death by a thousand paper cuts approach by stringing together several good at-bats.

It won’t get any easier after that as the Utes then face the reigning NCAA champions, the UCLA Bruins, the unanimous number one team in the nation on Monday afternoon. UCLA is led by the three-headed monster in their pitching staff of Megan Faraimo (4-0, 0.61 ERA), Lexi Sosa (1-0, 1.17 ERA) and Holly Azevedo (1-0, 3.11 ERA). At the plate, SS Briana Perez and her 10 hits near the top of the order lead the Bruin offense.

The Utes will finish the three-game weekend against the No. 13 ranked Arizona State Sun Devils. The Sun Devils (6-0) will be playing on their home turf and hosting the Utes for the second time during non-conference play. Back on Feb. 13, Arizona State topped the Utes 9-4, launching four home runs in the game. Arizona State relies on the extra-base hit to create offense, tallying 11 doubles and 12 home runs as a team this year. 

The first pitch on Sunday vs. Oregon is scheduled for 5 p.m. MST. On Monday, Utah faces UCLA at 2 p.m. MST before taking on Arizona State at 5 p.m. MST.


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