Utah Softball Opens Home Slate with Disappointing Showing


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


After more than a month of travel and road games, the 15-8 University of Utah softball team returned to Salt Lake City to open the 2022 home schedule with six straight games.

The Utes hosted the Wisconsin Badgers (12-7) at Dumke Family Softball Stadium on the University of Utah campus. They played a doubleheader on Tuesday, March 15 before a Wednesday afternoon matinee wrapped up the three-game set.

Before recapping the Wisconsin series, it’s worth taking a deeper look at the Utes and their 2022 season to date.

Similar to last season, Utah’s lineup has struggled to generate consistent offensive production as they currently sit at or near the bottom of most major Pac-12 statistical categories. While consistency with the bat has been a struggle, the Utes make the most of their chances when they do reach base.

Leadoff speedster Haley Denning leads the conference with 13 stolen bases and has been caught just twice this year. Two more Utes are on the conference’s leaderboard with Ellessa Bonstrom and Jordyn Gasper tied with several players at seven steals. Stella Bennett is just outside the top 10 with six steals of her own. As a team, Utah’s 55 steals are 19 more than the second place UCLA Bruins. Utah baserunners have only been thrown out eight times.

Bonstrom and 3B Julia Jimenez lead the Utes with six and four home runs respectively. The pair also sits atop the Utes RBI leaderboard as Bonstrom has 27 runs knocked in and Jimenez has added 23 RBI of her own.

Sophie Jacquez has been raking, sitting second on the team with a .400 batting average and leading the squad with 10 doubles. Bonstrom’s .456 average leads the team.

For the pitching staff, extra depth thanks to the additions of transfer Shi Smith from Seattle University, as well as freshman Hailey Harris, hasn’t translated to the stat sheet.

Again, the Utes pitching staff ranks at or near the bottom of most major pitching stats. Jarringly, the Utes have allowed 60 earned runs, 34 more than Oregon State’s Pac-12 best mark of 26. Only three Pac-12 teams have allowed 50+ earned runs. More concerning still, Utah has played 20.1 fewer innings than the Beavers.

Individually, the pitching numbers look much better.

As the “ace” of the staff, senior Sydney Sandez (6-2) has built a 2.01 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. In 67 innings, Sandez has dominated in the strike zone as she’s built a 54:4 strikeout to walk ratio and opponents are batting just .195 against her.

Mariah Lopez (5-2) also returned for her sophomore season and has been dynamic at times in the circle. Her 2.29 ERA and 0.99 WHIP across 35.1 innings all rank second behind Sandez. 

Game 1: Wisconsin Badgers 4, Utah Utes 3

Utah starter Sydney Sandez was dealing through six innings but the Utes were unable to hold a seventh inning lead as the Badgers scored three in the final frame to win 4-3.

Entering the final inning with the Utes in front 2-1, Sandez had allowed a single run on just two base hits. An error by shortstop Haley Denning allowed the Badger lead-off hitter to reach and Sandez seemed to get knocked out of her groove following the error. A walk and an RBI single sandwiched around Sandez’s fifth strikeout. With two out and two on, Fiona Girardot tripled to right, scoring two runs and putting the Badgers in front for good.

Utah got a run back in the bottom half of the inning when Julia Jimenez singled home Ali Belarde but a Sophie Jacquez groundout ended the game.

Sandez (6-2) went the distance, allowing five hits and three earned runs while striking out five. Maddie Schwartz (9-2) also got the complete game, striking out two and giving up two earned runs.

Ellessa Bonstrom led Utah at the plate as she went 3-4 with a pair of doubles. 

Game 2: Wisconsin Badgers 9, Utah Utes 1

The Badgers struck fast, scoring four first-inning runs and setting the stage for a 9-1 blowout.

Mariah Lopez (5-3) started in the circle and just didn’t have it today as she gave up four runs, three earned, and surrendered a walk and hit by pitch in her one inning of work. She ended up throwing 39 pitches in the innings, facing eight batters.  

Halle Morris threw the final four innings in a run-rule shortened five-inning game. Four innings equaled Morris’ longest outing of the season. 

Game 3: Wisconsin Badgers 6, Utah Utes 1 

The Badger bats got to Sydney Sandez in the middle innings, scoring five runs in the second and third innings combined, and Ava Justman cruised in the circle as Wisconsin swept the three-game series with a 6-1 win.

Jordyn Gasper got the Utes on the board in the first inning when she doubled home Sophie Jacquez from first.

Sandez retired the Badgers in order in the top of the first, but Utah pitching did not see another clean inning until the game had already been decided. 

With Utah in front 1-0, the Badgers strung together four singles on their way to taking a 2-1 third inning lead. 

In the fourth, Wisconsin began the inning with two more singles. Sandez then uncorked a wild pitch before eventually walking the bases loaded. Lauren Foster delivered a base-clearing triple, taking the Badgers to a 5-1 lead. Wisconsin would score an insurance run in the sixth, going on to win 6-1.

Sandez (6-3) took the loss while Ava Justman (4-5) throws a complete game seven hitter. 

On Deck

The Utes begin Pac-12 conference play as they welcome in the No. 9 Oregon Ducks for a three game set beginning on Friday, March 18 with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. MDT.


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