Utah Softball Wins Five of Six in San Diego


Justin Prather

The Ute’s softball team defended the diamond in a three game series against UCLA. (Photo by: Justin Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer


It was like déjà vu for the University of Utah women’s softball team as many of the same problems they experienced in 2021 came back to haunt them in a 2-3 start to the season at the Kajikawa Classic.

The Utes opened the 2022 campaign with a heartbreaking 4-3 walk-off loss to then No. 5 Oklahoma State. After taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning, Utah’s bats failed to provide enough insurance for their pitching staff.

After a 4-0 win over Missouri State, the script repeated itself in consecutive 11-2 and 5-1 losses to then No. 20 Duke. Utah’s offense struggled to create a big inning so the pitching staff consistently had their back against a wall.

“I was happy with how we competed,” said Utah head coach Amy Hogue as she entered her 13th season leading the program. “Now we need to learn how to close. We’re talented enough to win these games.”

Continuing their 2022 non-conference schedule, the Utes traveled to San Diego for six games in four days beginning on Friday, Feb. 18.


Saint Mary’s Gaels 2 – Utah Utes 6

Sophomore pitcher Mariah Lopez started and held Saint Mary’s at bay for 6+ innings while striking at five. 

The Utes never trailed, relying on a small-ball approach, Utah used nine singles and four stolen bases to piece together their six runs. 

Six Utes knocked in a run with Ellessa Bonstrom adding to her team-high RBI total of 13. Bonstrom went 2-3 and scored two runs.

Lopez (1-1) got the win for the Utes and Kayla Scott (1-1) took the loss for Saint Mary’s.

Sacramento State Hornets 8 – Utah Utes 9

Utah led 2-1 before an offensive explosion blew the game wide open in the fifth inning.

RBI leader Ellessa Bonstrom smacked a bases-loaded triple to center that scored Haley Denning, Aliya Belarde and Stella Bennett. Julia Jimenez then singled to score Bonstrom from third. AJ Militello came in to pinch-run for Jimenez and, after a groundout for the second out of the inning, Elicia Espinosa cleared the left-field wall with a two-run shot.

Once the smoke had cleared, Utah had scored six runs in the inning, taking a commanding 8-1 lead into the final two innings.

Sacramento State wasn’t done though, tagging Halle Morris for three runs in the sixth before chasing her from the game after four consecutive seventh inning singles and another three runs closed the gap to 9-7.

Hogue then brought Sydney Sandez in for the save in relief of Morris. Sandez gave up a single in four batters faced, locking down her first save of the season and giving Utah a 9-8 win.

Alyssa Nunez (0-1) took the loss for the Hornets while Morris (1-2) got the win in an up and down performance.


Sacramento State Hornets 0 – Utah Utes 13

It appeared Utah learned from their missteps on Friday as they came out and put a shellacking on the Hornets.

A pair of big innings at the plate and a superb pitching performance from Sandez (2-0) allowed the Utes to post their second shutout of the season in the 13-0 win.

Sandez allowed three hits across six innings of work while racking up five strikeouts. 

The Utes enjoyed four doubles, two off the bat of Sophie Jacquez and the first home run of Julia Jimenez’s Utah career.

Bonstrom continued her production in the middle of the lineup, finishing 2-3 with a run scored and three RBI. 

UC San Diego Tritons 1 – Utah Utes 3

With Shi Smith in the circle, Utah found just enough offense to pair with a combined four-hitter from Smith and Sandez to win their fourth game of the weekend 3-1.

With her team struggling to string together hits, Hogue went to an aggressive baserunning approach in the middle-innings to manufacture run-scoring opportunities. 

With the game scoreless entering the third inning, AJ Militello pinch ran for Katie Faulk and stole second base. After advancing to third on a Shelbi Ortiz groundout, Haley Denning used her contact approach to put the ball in play, just beating out a ball hit back to the pitcher. Militello scored on the play giving the Utes a 1-0 advantage.

Morgan Eng put the Tritons on the board in the fourth inning as she pinch ran, stealing second before eventually scoring on a fielder’s choice ground out.

With the score still tied 1-1, Bonstrom gave the Utes their first extra-base hit of the afternoon with a one-out double. Bonstrom then scored when Jimenez singled to right. CC Cook pinch ran for Jimenez, advanced on a wild pitch and then scored when Jacquez doubled to right.

Sydney Sandez (3-0) came on in relief of Smith to start the fourth inning. She would not allow a hit while striking out three in four innings of work. Kaia Simpson (1-1) took the loss for UC San Diego.


Saint Mary’s Gaels 1 – Utah Utes 0

It was a first-inning unearned run that ended up being the difference on Sunday afternoon as neither offense could develop any momentum against starters Mariah Lopez for the Utes and Sofia Earle for Saint Mary’s.

Haley Denning accounted for two hits, Aliya Belarde had the other while batters two through eight in the Utah lineup managed six walks and zero base hits.

Both pitchers went the distance in this one as Earle (2-2) walked seven and struck out eight. Lopez threw six innings, scattering five hits while striking out eight and walking just one. 


San Diego Toreros 0 – Utah Utes 5

Sydney Sandez (4-0) continued her early season string of dominance as she twirled a gem in her second complete-game shutout of the season.

The Torero’s mounted a single threat against Sandez, but after allowing back-to-back singles in the bottom of the fourth, Sandez forced Arisa Tovar to ground out, ending the threat.

Utah scored three runs in the fourth, only one earned. They would tack on insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings as well. 

Madison Earnshaw (2-2) took the loss for San Diego.

Up Next

The Utes head back to California next week where they will participate in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Utah is scheduled to face the San Diego Toreros on Friday, Feb. 25 with the first pitch scheduled for 11:30 a.m. MST.


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