Utah Softball Comes Up Empty in the Desert


The University of Utah Softball team huddles up during an NCAA Softball game vs the BYU Cougars at Dumke Family Softball Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT on Wednesday April 18, 2018.(Photo by Curtis Lin/ Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer


University of Utah softball head coach Amy Hogue knew she had built a challenging non-conference schedule. With three consecutive games in Tempe, AZ against top-13 teams, that difficult schedule was about to see a significant uptick in the quality of opponents. Three non-conference games, three undefeated opponents, and this Utah team learned a lot about themselves this weekend.


On Sunday afternoon, Utah faced the No. 8 ranked Oregon Ducks (9-0). Oregon entered the game on a high note after knocking off No. 1 UCLA earlier in the day. Sydney Sandez (5-1) started in the circle for the Utes and held a high-powered Duck offense scoreless across four frames. Entering the fifth inning, Utah clung to a 1-0 lead, striking first thanks to Savannah Whatley crossing the plate on a wild pitch from Oregon starting pitcher Samaria Diaz.

In the fifth, Oregon exploded for four runs on three hits, including a 2-RBI triple from Allee Bunker and a 2-run home run from Alyssa Brito. Four Oregon home runs did the Utes in on Sunday, as Oregon nearly doubled their team home run season total, jumping from six to 10 homers. Senior Katie Faulk wrapped up the scoring with her first HR of the season, a solo shot off Brooke Yanez.  

“We had a good start to this game and Oregon had a good finish,” Hogue said. “If we want to be a great team, we have to continue to learn and adjust as hitters until the 21st out of the game is recorded. Oregon adjusted and we didn’t; that was the difference in the game.”


Game One

Facing the No. 1 team in the country is never an easy task; but facing them after a loss is even tougher. Utah would have no room for error Monday afternoon against the defending national champion UCLA Bruins. 

The Utes would strike early and often against the Bruins. After surrendering a run in the top of the first, Utah would take the lead in the bottom of the second on a 2-run HR from Madi Jacobus that also scored Ellessa Bonstrom. UCLA tied the game at two apiece in the third before Utah would tack on solo home runs from Jordyn Gasper & Halle Morris sandwiched around a run-scoring UCLA error, giving Utah a 5-2 lead. 

Working around trouble for much of the afternoon, Mariah Lopez (1-3) allowed seven hits and three runs across five innings against a dangerous Bruin lineup. Sydney Sandez came on in relief of Lopez to start the sixth, but could only record one out. Sandez allowed three runs on three hits, surrendering the lead before giving way to Halle Morris, who would finish the final five outs for Utah in the 6-5 loss.

Game Two

Unable to overcome the heartbreak of a late-inning lead lost earlier in the day, the night cap against Arizona State quickly turned into a nightmare after starter Mary Beth Feldman gave up seven runs in two innings pitched, including a crooked six runs in the second.

The Utah bats also struggled to break through in this one. After not stranding a runner earlier in the day against UCLA, Utah would have four left on base in game two. Halle Morris (3) homered  in the fourth, her second of the day; Madi Jacobus picked up her 11th RBI of the season to finish the scoring in the sixth.

“We have some things to clean up in our game, but I know, even without winning a game this weekend, we got a lot better,” Hogue said.

Three consecutive losses make for a difficult weekend, but Coach Hogue isn’t letting the team hang their heads. With 11 days off before their next game, Utah will have plenty of time to get their game “cleaned up”, as Hogue is looking for.

On Deck

The University of Utah softball team (9-5) has this week off, and are not scheduled to play again until they head south to St. George for games beginning on March 12. The Utes will play four games in the Dixie State Tournament against Southern Utah (4-11), Boise State (3-7), Weber State (6-8) and tournament host Dixie State (5-10).


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