It may be the second week of the season but the Utah softball team appears to be in midseason form.
One week after a 5-1 opening weekend, the Utes followed that up with a 4-1 showing at the UNLV Desert Classic. It was an impressive offensive performance by Utah as it averaged 8.2 runs per game, including a pair of 14-run games against California Baptist and host UNLV.
Friday, Feb. 19
UTAH 4 — Weber State 3
Utah needed some late-game heroics to survive the opening game of the weekend when Alyssa Barrera and Ellessa Bonstrom had RBI singles in the top of the seventh inning to push the Utes ahead.
They entered the final inning trailing 3-2 before Barrera's single scored Haley Denning, who singled and stole second. Barrera advanced to second following the throw home, setting the stage for Bonstrom's game-winner.
Syndey Sandez got the win by giving up one run on three hits over four innings, She replaced Mary Beth Feldman, who threw the first three innings and gave up two runs on five hits.
UTAH 3 — Cal Baptist 5
The Utes wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard in the nightcap, with Denning scoring on a fielder's choice by Madi Jacobus in the first inning. Utah then ran the score up to 3-0 when Destiny Quiles singled to score Denning and Savanah Whatley in the second.
But that's where the offense stalled and Cal Baptist began its comeback, scoring five runs over the next five innings.
Sandez threw the opening 3.1 innings, giving up three earned runs on four hits before giving to Mariah Lopez. She suffered the loss after throwing the final 3.2 innings, giving up two earned runs on three hits with four strikeouts.
"A split today is disappointing and yet it took everything we had to get that first win," Utah head coach Amy Hogue said. "We are due to win a game with our offense. We have been leaning on our pitching and they struggled for a lot of the day today. It's time for our offense to be there for our pitchers. We need to do a better job of adjusting at the plate and hitting balls hard."
Saturday, Feb. 20
UTAH 14 — Cal Baptist 7
Hogue was correct when she said the Utes are due to win a game with the offense. But she was wrong as it wasn't just one game the offense would win, it was two.
Utah took a 3-0 lead in the opener when Morris blasted a ball deep over the centerfield fence for the first inning advantage.
It was short-lived though as Cal Baptist exploded for seven runs in the second inning, making it a four-run deficit. Bonstrom cut that deficit in half when she smashed a two-run blast in the fifth inning.
Still trailing by two in the seventh, the Utes exploded for nine runs as seven different players had run-scoring hits for the win. Morris finished with five RBI's while Barrera and Bonstrom added three and two RBI's, respectively.
Morris all got the win in the circle, throwing four scoreless innings to end the game in which she gave up just three hits.
UTAH 14 — UNLV 12
A back-and-forth affair saw the Utes and Rebels combine for 26 runs on 31 hits in a matchup of the top teams at the tournament.
Utah jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first on a Bonstrom home run, but UNLV responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning to tie it up.
The Utes took back a 7-3 lead in the second with Barrera's three-run blast being the big-time hit. However, UNLV responded with two runs in the bottom of the second and four more in the bottom of the fourth to take a 9-8 lead heading into the later innings.
Utah then rallied with six runs in the top of the sixth when both Bonstrom and Faulk hit home runs for the 14-9 lead. The Rebels made it interesting with three runs in the bottom of the seventh but that was all they could muster.
Bonstrom, Barrera and Faulk combined for 12 RBI's in the win.
"This game is so wild," Hogue said. "We have all missed it so much. And yet, it's exhausting. It's intense. It's pressure-filled. It's ever-changing. I'm proud of our perseverance today. Winning two after the loss yesterday is exactly what we needed. It took everyone to get it done. One more tomorrow!"
Saturday, Feb. 20
UTAH 6 — UNLV 3
After the offense took over in two games on Sunday, it was Lopez' turn to dominate in, just in the pitcher's circle.
The freshman earned her first-career victory when she threw a complete game and struck out 11, giving up three runs (zero earned) on four hits.
Barrera and Bonstrom continued their stellar weekend when they hit back-to-back solo home runs in the first inning. The Utes added two more runs in the second and fourth innings, with Denning, Noskin and Julia Scardina all getting RBI hits — with Scardina's being a solo home run.
"Mariah just introduced herself to everyone. What a day she had," Hogue said. "It was fun to see her throw her first complete game as a Ute. She's going to do big things for us. The team came to play today. After the first 10 games everyone has really started to understand and take some ownership in their roles. We had great production from our 7 players that came in off the bench and closed the weekend on a very positive note."
Utah returns to action when it heads south again to Tempe, Arizona to face Pac-12 foes in No. 8 Oregon, No. 1 UCLA and No. 13 Arizona State — arguably the toughest three-game stretch of any team in the nation.
First pitch against the Ducks is set for Sunday, Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. MT, before facing the Bruins and Sun Devils on Monday, Mar. 1 at 2 and 5 p.m. MT respectively.
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