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Utah Softball Splits Weekend at Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic

The team had a series of electrifying performances, topping off the competition with a legendary comeback against Nebraska.
University+of+Utah+Softball+team+players+warm+up+before+an+NCAA+dual+meet+against+Stanford+University+at+the+Dumke+Family+Softball+Stadium+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+March+27%2C+2021.+%28Photo+by+Abu+Asib+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Abu Sufian Mohammad Asib
University of Utah Softball team players warm up before 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)

 

Continuing to stay out of the chilly Utah weather, the Utah softball team once again took their talents to warmer fields, this time to Palm Springs, California for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Here, the team met up with some familiar opponents from weeks past, as well as some fresh faces to start off the weekend. 

Northridge

First up on the weekend’s schedule was the California State University Northridge Matadors, a team Utah hasn’t met since 2022. The game took off with electric energy from the Utes, with Leilani Melendez kicking off the second inning with a homer out to left field. Karlie Davison followed with a single down the center, before Abby Dayton came up with a single to first base. Julia Jimenez followed suit and a double from Kaylah Nelsen pushed Davison and Dayton home, where Jimenez arrived shortly after on a groundout. Nelsen wouldn’t make it past third, but with four runs under their belt the Utes were creating a presence early in the game.

Early in the third inning, Davison walked to first after being hit by a pitch, and while waiting for Dayton to hit she stole second. Dayton subsequently nailed a triple, easing Davison home and adding another run to the Utah tally. The rest of the excitement came in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Haley Denning stole second before a single from Aliya Belarde pushed her to third, followed by Belarde stealing second herself. Sophie Jacquez took advantage of the fielder’s choice and snagged second, allowing Denning to score. Reese Lee came in to pinch run for Jacquez, and after a few hits at bat Belarde and Lee secured a run each. Northridge struggled to even put a runner on base for the rest of the game, and before long the Utes closed out their first win of the weekend at 8-0.

San Diego

That same evening, the Utes returned to the field to continue their dominant run thus far against the University of San Diego, a team Utah has lost only twice to in their eight meetings. In a similar fashion to that morning, the Utes came into the first inning with remarkable showmanship, ready to bring home as many runs as possible. 

Denning got the action started, stealing third base — thanks to an error on the pitcher’s part — before Belarde nailed another single, sending Denning home. Dayton, who could not have had a better day at bat, sent another single over to third, and was followed by Jimenez who did the same. With Belarde and Davison now home, Nelsen stepped up to deliver a double, getting Dayton and Jimenez home as well. Having only finished the first inning, the Utes secured an electrifying start at 5-0.

Entering the second inning and not wasting any time, Belarde sent another single and was able to advance to second with another error from San Diego. Another error allowed Jacquez to first, before Sianni Sakai stepped in for a pinch run for the outfielder, eventually stealing second. A hit from Melendez saw Belarde run home, and a double from Davison helped Sakai do the same. To top it all off, Davison stole third and nabbed another run for the Utes, filling out the board to 8-0. The rest of the match stayed quiet, save for a single run by San Diego in the top of the fifth.

Notre Dame

Coming off of an incredible 16 runs the previous day, it was time to face a familiar opponent from the NFCA Leadoff Classic: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who the Utes sent home in defeat 9-3. Unfortunately this time around, Notre Dame was on the hunt for revenge and ultimately sent Utah packing.

Utah was the first to score once again, this time in the third inning with Sakai scoring her second career run for the Utes, pinch running for Nelsen. Next it was Notre Dame’s turn, with three runs scored by the Fighting Irish in the bottom of the third. Utah got close again in the fifth, when Nelsen was tagged out at home with three of her teammates on base. Notre Dame grabbed one more on their side of the fifth, before closing out the sixth with three more for good measure. The game marked Utah’s first loss of the weekend at 1-7, and unfortunately there was little rest for the team before the Utes took on the University of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin

Almost immediately following the conclusion of the match against Notre Dame, it was time to welcome another opponent to the field with the Wisconsin Badgers. Keeping with the weekend’s trend, Utah opened up scoring in the second inning when Nelsen sent a single up the left side, before Melendez and Jacquez grounded out to the pitcher and second base, respectively. This allowed Nelsen to move up to third, and a single from Jimenez secured the run for the Utes. 

Both teams moved on steadily, with neither reaching home plate again until a homer from Denning in the top of the fifth inning. An error on pitcher Mariah Lopez’s part allowed a run from Wisconsin in the bottom of the fifth. In the bottom of the sixth, the Badgers struck a triple and a homer, ultimately claiming victory at 2-4.

Nebraska

To polish off the weekend, the Utes took on the unranked Nebraska Huskers in what would be another electrifying performance. Contrary to the previous four games, Nebraska was the one to score first this time, and it was enough to make Utah fans fear a third loss in a row — two homers, loaded bases and a handful of singles in the third inning saw the Huskers grab five runs almost all at once, and in the blink of an eye it was 0-5 for the Utes.

The fourth inning came and went, and as it turned back over to Utah they knew it was time to get to work. A single from Shelbi Ortiz put her on base. An error from the shortstop helped Denning to first before she stole second with Ortiz on third. Belarde flied out to center field, giving Ortiz time to get home before Dayton nailed a homer straight out to center field to get the second and third runs for Utah.

Entering the sixth inning, it was the Utes’ time to shine and the team knew it. With Davison, Sakai and Stella Bennett on base, Denning sent a single down the line to earn two runs before the same from Belarde saw Bennett through. Nelsen was next up to bat, delivering a single of her own to help Denning and Belarde home. Now up 8-5, the Utes left the Huskers dumbfounded, and for good measure Melendez secured one more at the top of the seventh to make it a clean 9-5 win for Utah.

Having concluded an overall successful weekend, the Utes have one more series to take part in before beginning Pac-12 play at UCLA. Beginning on March 2, Utah will head down to St. George to participate in the Utah Tech Invitational, where they will take on the invitational’s namesake and also have a chance at redemption against Wisconsin.

 

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@abbey0thomas

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About the Contributors
Abbey Thomas, Assistant Sports Editor
Abbey Thomas started at the Daily Utah Chronicle in the fall of 2022 as a Sports Writer and is now Assistant Sports Editor for the desk. She is currently studying Cultural Anthropology with a minor in history and hopes to pursue medicine one day. Abbey is a die-hard fan of Real Salt Lake and Manchester City, and loves to travel and practice photography in her free time!
Abu Sufian Mohammad Asib, Photographer
Abu Asib is a photographer. He has worked with the Chronicle since Fall 2019. He is a Bangladeshi student in the Civil Engineering PhD Program at the U. Photojournalism has always been in his wish list. Abu took this opportunity with open arms. He loves photographing the NCAA sports at the U. For his works, he received a scholarship and participated the famous ‘Sports Shooter Academy Workshop’ in March, 2020. He aims to enrich his photography portfolio from the Chronicle assignments. During weekends, he drives to the beautiful sights to photograph diverse landscapes and nightscapes. The natural wonders of Utah have immensely influenced Abu’s interest in photography.

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