Utah Softball Picks Up First Pac-12 Win of the Season

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Jack Gambassi

Senior infielder, Julia Noskin (#10), during the Ute’s game against the ASU Sun Devils on Apr 2, 2021 at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer

 

With fans in the stands, the wind blowing out, a beautiful cloudless sky and the No. 14 ranked Arizona State Sun Devils softball team in the first base dugout, everything was coming up roses for the University of Utah softball program at Dumke Family Softball Stadium this week. 

Major League Baseball’s opening day had nothing on the environment Thursday afternoon to start this three-game-series, pitting the Utes against the Sun Devils from Arizona State. It was a perfect weekend to play some softball and fans at the ballpark got all the action they could have bargained for. 

Thursday

It may have been the perfect weather for some softball, but that didn’t lead to a great performance from the Utes on Thursday. Facing the Sun Devils for the third time this season, but the first time with Pac-12 standings on the line, ASU was up to the task while the Utes fell short.

Mariah Lopez (2-8) started in the circle for Utah and struggled throughout her 4.1 innings pitched. Allowing five runs, including three earned, Lopez was burned by the four walks and two ASU batters she hit by pitches. 

The Sun Devils built a five-run lead on three extra-base hits, two doubles from Halle Harger — which resulted in three RBI’s — and a Kindra Hackbarth two-run double in the second. Utah got a run back and closed the gap to 5-1 thanks to Elessa Bonstrom’s (8) solo-homer to right in the fourth inning, but that would be the Utes’ only run of the afternoon.

ASU used extra-base hits to add some insurance runs — this time, Kindra Hackbarth tripled home a run, followed by a Maddi Hackbarth three-run homer that provided the final tally, ASU 9-1. 

Mary Beth Feldman made her second Pac-12 appearance of the season for Utah, allowing four runs, three earned in 1.2 innings to close the ball game. Lindsay Lopez (8-3) got the win for ASU. Lopez’s complete game marked the fifth consecutive time Utah has had a complete game thrown against them. 

Utah coach Amy Hogue talked about how Utah needed to respond after the loss.

“We need to play clean on defense to have a chance to beat that team,” Hogue said. “That was our first time facing (Lindsay) Lopez. She is tough. We will get her again and now we know the adjustments we will need to make.”

Friday

For the first time in conference play this season, the Utes were able to piece together a good starting pitching performance, with timely hitting and clutch defense to pick up a 6-4 win against a difficult Arizona State opponent.

Alyssa Barrera gave her team the lead for the first time in conference play on home turf when she slapped a two-run single that scored both Haley Denning and Julia Noskin

Pitching with the lead for the first time in several appearances, Halle Morris (3-2) had what can probably be considered her best start of the season. She finished by scattering seven hits and allowing three earned runs across 5.2 innings pitched.

ASU found themselves on the scoreboard, courtesy of another big swing from Kindra Hackbarth, a solo home run to left-center in the fifth inning. Rather than fold though, the Utes would use another RBI-single from Barrera and a two-RBI double from Morris to increase their lead to 6-1 in the fifth. 

ASU would mount rallies in the sixth and seventh innings, chipping away at the Utah lead. In relief of Morris, Sydney Sandez would shut down each Sun Devil rally, preserving a 6-4 Utah win and picking up her first save of the season along the way. 

“I’m proud of this group. There was a commitment to chipping away and sticking with the game plan. Halle (Morris) was great on both sides of the game today,” Hogue said following the victory. 

Saturday

After picking up the victory on Friday, Utah hoped the proverbial conference monkey had been lifted from their backs and they could play free and fearless to close the series on Saturday.

Morris got her second straight start for the Utes and pitched well, allowing only three earned runs through 4.1 innings. But unfortunately, Utah would struggle offensively as they could only muster four base hits against Lopez, who was making her second start of the series for the Sun Devils.

Scoreless through three innings, neither team could get much going until the fourth. Maddi Hackbarth launched her 14th home run of the season and second of the series to give ASU the 1-0 advantage. In the following inning, a Makenna Harper single scored Bella Loomis and Jordyn VanHook, resulting in a 3-0 Sun Devil advantage.

Utah tried to build a comeback in the final frame but fell short. Singles from Barrera and Morris put runners on first and second base. Katie Faulk came to the plate representing the tying run. Faulk would cap the weekend with a sharp single to right-center that scored Barrera. Alyssa Palacios would then fly out the centerfield to end the ball game, giving the Devils a 3-1 victory and finishing the weekend series 2-1 in favor of Arizona State.

Back in the Circle

Utah is back on the field Tuesday, April 6 as they travel to St. George to face Dixie State on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a second game on Wednesday afternoon against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. Each of these games will be makeups for the postponed Dixie State Tournament. The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. MST on Tuesday.

 

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