Utah Softball Finishes Weekend on Sour Note After Loss to No. 1 Oklahoma


Abu Sufian Mohammad Asib

University of Utah softball player and senior Ellesa Bonstrom (2) runs to the base 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 | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer


It might be sub-30 degree temperatures in Salt Lake City, but that doesn’t matter as the University of Utah softball team will play five games in Southern California at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

In the third of four consecutive weekends on the road, the Utes faced three Big West Conference opponents, bookended with games against San Diego and Oklahoma.

These early season tournaments provide a great opportunity for a young and improving Utah team to test themselves while gaining confidence ahead of Pac-12 play. 

“Now is the time to string some wins together and build momentum,” head coach Amy Hogue said following last week’s 5-1 performance at UC San Diego. 


San Diego Toreros 0 – Utah Utes 3

The Utes followed up a 5-0 shutout over the Toreros on Monday with another goose egg, this time thanks to the arm of Shi Smith.

Smith (2-0) limited the Toreros to four hits in 5.1 innings of work while striking out five batters. Smith gave way to Sydney Sandez in the sixth. Sandez threw 1.2 hitless innings, only allowing one batter to reach base via a hit by pitch.

Offensively, Ali Belarde and Jordyn Gasper each finished with two hits. Gasper also drove home two runs, giving her 10 RBIs this season. 

Speedster Haley Denning once again showed her importance at the top of the lineup as her third-inning single and two subsequent stolen bases put her in position to score the game’s first run when Julia Jimenez reached due to an error.

Elessa Bonstrom doubled in the fifth inning, giving her seven extra-base hits this season.

UC Riverside Highlanders 0 – Utah Utes 9

Another dynamic pitching performance, this time from Mariah Lopez and Halle Morris, left little in doubt as the Utes exploded for three home runs in a 9-0 rout of the Highlanders.

The Utes pounded out 15 hits while only striking out twice as a team in the five-inning run-rule shortened game. Six Utah players finished with two hits.


Starting behind the plate for the first time as a Ute, Kendall Lundberg made the most of her opportunity. After launching a first inning home run for the first long ball of her collegiate career, Lundberg finished 2-2 at the plate, scoring two runs and picking up three RBIs.

Denning went 2-3 from the leadoff spot, scoring and knocking in a run. She failed to steal a base for just the second time in the past 10 games.

Bonstrom and Elicia Espinosa also homered for the Utes.


Cal State Northridge Matadors 1 – Utah Utes 5

Sophie Jacquez got the first multi-RBI game of her career and Mariah Lopez went the distance in the circle in the Utes 5-1 win.

Utah’s 10 hits marked the fourth time this season and second consecutive game they had gotten double-digit hits.

Leadoff hitter Haley Denning was caught stealing for the first time this season when she was cut down trying to advance to second base in the first inning. Denning is now 10-11 in stolen base attempts.

Jacquez went 1-2 as a pinch hitter. Elessa Bonstrom and Aliya Belarde each had a pair of hits. Bonstrom leads Utah with 19 hits. 

Lopez (3-2) allowed three hits while walking two and fanning seven. She has a 1.73 ERA in 26 innings pitched. Kenedee Jamerson (1-4) took the loss for the Matadors.

UC Davis Mustangs 0 – Utah Utes 8

Julia Jimenez tallied five RBIs and Sydney Sandez notched her third complete game of the season in the Utes third run-rule-shortened win of the season. 

The Utes didn’t crack the scoreboard until a three-run third inning put them on top to stay. 

Familiar faces in Haley Denning and Ali Belarde got the offense kick-started. Singles from Denning and Belarde were followed by a fielder’s choice that scored Denning and allowed Elessa Bonstrom to reach.

With runners at the corners, Jimenez brought Belarde home with a sac bunt and Bonstrom scored on the overthrow.

Jimenez picked up two more RBIs in the fifth when a single to right scored Belarde and Bonstrom. Jimenez is batting .304 and has 14 RBIs this year. 

Throwing only 65 pitches, Sandez (4-0) allowed four hits while striking out three and walking none. Kenedi Brown (3-3) allowed five runs, four earned and took the loss in five innings.


Oklahoma Sooners 2 – Utah Utes 1

The No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners outlasted the Utes in a game that featured excellent pitching and a rare triple play.

Hope Trautwein started in the circle for the Sooners against Sydney Sandez for the Utes in a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. Trautwein (4-0) limited the Utes to a pair of hits and an unearned run in four innings of work. She struck out seven Utes while walking just one.

In the loss, Sandez (5-1) saw her ERA rise to 0.83. In 3.2 innings, she struck out three and walked one while giving up three hits. 

Oklahoma didn’t generate many scoring opportunities, but they were able to take advantage in the fourth inning when a Julia Jimenez error opened the door. Following the error, Jana Johns reached after being hit by a pitch. After recording two outs, Taylor Snow scored when Grace Lyons stole second, tying the game. Rylie Boone then sent a single into right field, bringing Lyons home and giving Oklahoma the 2-1 lead.

Utah scored their only run in the third inning when Denning singled and advanced to third on a throwing error. As has become commonplace for the Utes this season, Ali Belarde followed with a single to score Denning. 

In a rare feat, Utah’s defense turned a 5-4-3 triple play to end a Sooner threat in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Diamond Notes

In some unfortunate news, junior infielder Madi Jacobus has been medically disqualified from playing due to “issues related to head injuries,” the program announced over the weekend.

“This has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to witness as a head coach,” head coach Amy Hogue said. “Madi has three years of eligibility left and a whole lot of love for this game, and yet she simply cannot continue. It’s heartbreaking for all of us.”

Jacobus played in 54 games for the Utes, starting 51. She finishes her Utah playing career with a .331 average, 56 hits, 43 RBI and 34 runs scored. 

Jacobus will remain with the program, traveling with the team and serving as an asset for the coaching staff and players. “Madi is a phenomenal player, and despite her circumstances, she has been voted captain by her teammates and wants to continue to help lead this team this season from the dugout,” said Hogue.

Up Next

The Utes head west once again, this time to Fullerton, CA for the Judi Garman Classic. Utah will play five games over the weekend before traveling to Los Angeles where they will play two additional games against Loyola-Marymount before returning home. First pitch in the Judi Garman Classic is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. (MST) on Friday, March 4.


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