Utah Softball Facing Lions and Bears in Six-Game Homestand


Abu Sufian Mohammad Asib

University of Utah softball team head coach Amy Hogue tips player Julia Noskin (10) during an NCAA dual meet against Stanford University at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium in Salt Lake City on March 27, 2021 (Photo by Abu Asib | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer


Riding a five-game losing streak, the University of Utah softball team returns home this week, looking to play David and knock off the Goliath of the Pac-12 as the defending national champions, the UCLA Bruins, roll into Salt Lake for a four-game series beginning Friday afternoon at Dumke Family Softball Stadium.

Last week, a walk-off loss in Provo to the rival Brigham Young University Cougars proved an ill omen as the Utes then traveled to Tucson, Arizona and promptly fell in four straight games against the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats, including a combined 26-1 score across the first two contests. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but the Utes do have something to build on after they fought back to keep the final two games close in 6-4 and 3-2 losses. In a season as difficult as this one has been for the Utes, holding the lead against and having opportunities to beat the 10th ranked team in the nation could be considered a moral victory for such a young team.

Unfortunately for the Utes, moral victories don’t have their own column when it comes to wins and losses, so work is still to be done for Utah to realize their potential. What better way to gain some confidence and get back to their winning ways than starting the week off by slinging some stones against the visiting Idaho State Bengals (7-24) in a Wednesday afternoon doubleheader?

Idaho State

Game 1

Utah scored in five of six innings to win the first of a doubleheader against Idaho State by way of a 14-5 run-rule-shortened game.

Three Utah home runs, including back-to-back jacks from Ellessa Bonstrom (14) and Madi Jacobus (4), carried the Utes to their highest scoring output since late February. AJ Militello also picked up her third home run of the season.

Leading 9-5 after an Angelica Cano sixth-inning homer, her second of the day, Utah loaded the bases with nobody out thanks to the help of a Frankie Tago throwing error. Destiny Quiles & Militello each singled to drive in a run before Jordyn Gasper sent a 3-run triple into the right-centerfield gap, giving Utah a walk-off victory.

Sydney Sandez (9-7) got the win for Utah while Bengal Emma McMurray (0-8) took the loss in a complete game performance.

Game 2

Despite entering the two-game series against Utah with a 7-24 record, the Bengals played like a team every bit in the class of the Utes. 

ISU took an early lead in the nightcap, picking up two runs on a single from starting pitcher Mailee Newman

Trailing 2-0 heading into the third, Utah scored five runs. Bonstrom got the first RBI after drawing a bases-loaded walk. Then Jacobus and Halle Morris each got 2-run singles to open up the scoring. 

From there, it was a back and forth ball game. Idaho State knotted things up 5-5 with a three-run inning of their own. The big hit came on Cano’s (7) third home run of the day, a two-run shot that also scored Skyler Sethman. Utah immediately got two runs back in the bottom of the fifth, taking a 7-5 lead into the later stages of the ball game.

Mariah Lopez came on in relief of Sandez, who started both halves of the doubleheader. Lopez hit Rheanne Lewis with a pitch and Emma Bordenkecher singled to center before Lopez pitched around Cano, loading the bases with one out. After inducing Newman to pop out, Shea Perkins drew a walk that scored Lewis from third base and cut the Utes’ lead to 7-6. Lopez, aiming for her second save of the season, then forced a Morgan Hess groundout to second base that ended the game without any additional drama. 

Sandez (10-7) got her second win of the day, throwing six innings and allowing five runs on nine hits. Newman (3-9) got the loss and Lopez (2) earned the save.

No. 2 UCLA Bruins 28-3, 10-2 in Pac-12

There’s never an easy weekend in the Pac-12, and that holds especially true this week with the class of the Pac-12 UCLA Bruins traveling to Salt Lake to take on the Utes. The Bruins are winners of nine of their last 11, including three of four against the No. 5 Washington Huskies last weekend in Los Angeles.

Featuring a high-powered offense and an equally dominant pitching staff, UCLA could be considered the most complete team in the Pac-12. The Utes & Bruins have already faced each other once this season, a 6-5 UCLA victory way back on March 1 in a non-conference game. Utah battled, leading 5-2 after four innings, before UCLA scored four unanswered to get the victory. Morris, Jacobus and Gasper each homered for the Utes.

In the circle, the Bruins lean on Rachel Garcia (8-0), Megan Faraimo (12-3) and Holly Azevedo (6-0) for the bulk of their innings. The trio has combined to throw 93% of available innings this season. Garcia leads the conference with a 0.52 ERA in her 53.2 innings pitched and has primarily been used in relief, logging only six starts this season. Faraimo has started 12 games and completed eight of those, while also being fourth on the Pac-12 ERA leaderboard at 1.39. 

At the dish, UCLA boasts depth, power and on-base skills that could give Utah problems. Led by Garcia’s .407 batting average, 10 players with more than 20 starts have a better than .300 average. Six Bruins have over 20 RBI, topped by 28 from Briana Perez and Delanie Wisz’s 26. The Bruins will utilize speed on the base paths more than Utah’s previous opponents as they are currently 3rd in the Pac-12 with 50 stolen bases, just two more steals than the Utes.

Tickets for this weekend’s games can be found here and all four games will be live streamed here.

Keys to the Game

Forget the records: A program with the history and success that UCLA has can win games before they ever step on the field by simple intimidation factor. This won’t work against Utah. The Utes have already faced the Bruins this season and given them all they could handle before falling in a one-run ballgame. All that matters is the game right in front of Utah.

Start fast, finish strong: The Utes have a habit of getting early leads and then squandering them as the game progresses. Utah needs to establish a consistent approach through all seven innings across four games. 

Defend Dumke: After two wins on Wednesday, the Utes are 5-6 at home this season. Use home field advantage to be the aggressor this weekend. Defend the home turf. 


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