SB: Utah suffers first two losses in heart-breaking fashion

Ryan Kostecka

After beginning the 2020 season 6-0, including a victory over No. 14 Northwestern last weekend, Utah entered Friday's contests with No. 6 Texas and No. 12 Tennessee unafraid of its competition.

The Utes (6-2) led both contests by two runs after four innings but were unable to hang on for the wins, losing in walk-off fashion to the Longhorns and suffering a fifth inning collapse against the Volunteers.

Game 1: No. 6 Texas 3 — UTAH 2

The reason Utah even had a chance against the Longhorns had a lot to do with freshman Halle Morris in the pitcher's circle. Making her first career start, Morris struggled a bit in the first inning by loading the bases but then held the powerful Longhorns offense scoreless through six innings.

She finished the game with 6.0 innings thrown after giving up two earned runs with three strikeouts. 

The Utes got on the board in the fourth by taking advantage of a Texas throwing error.

Alyssa Barrera reached first base on a fielder's choice before a walk put her at second. BreOnna Castaneda then hit a groundball to the shortstop, but as Texas tried to turn the double play, the throw went past the first baseman, allowing Barrera to score and give the Utes the early lead.

Utah managed to manufacture another run in the fifth when Morris, who was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a bunt by Alyssa Palacios. Jordyn Gasper then pinch-ran for Morris, and after advancing to third base on a wild pitch, crossed home plate after a fielder's choice.

But then things fell apart in the seventh. 

Morris gave up back-to-back solo blasts before pulled for Sydney Sandez. After allowing a bunt single before getting an out, Sandez gave up a walk-off double that ended it.

Haley Denning led the way with a 2-for-4 performance while Madi Jacobus and Destiny Quiles added hits.

Game 2: No. 12 Tennessee 8 — UTAH 5

Making sure there would be no letdown from the first game, Denning got things started right away for the Utes in the top of the first inning. She singled and then stole second and third base before scoring on a fielder's choice by Jacobus.

Utah had a chance to really break things open in the second and third, loading the bases each time. But each time they couldn't get the big hit to crack it open, instead holding on to the 1-0 lead.

The Volunteers eventually took the lead with solo runs in the third and fourth innings. But it was short-lived as Utah bounced back with a three-run fifth inning for the 4-2 lead.

Denning was once again the catalyst, singling to start and then stealing second and third before coming around to score on a Jacobus groundball. But this time, Jacobus and Ellessa Bonstrom crossed home plate for the advantage.

However the lead was short lived again as Tennessee rallied with five runs in the bottom of the fifth and solo run in the sixth for the lead that Utah couldn't overcome. 

The Utes looked poised for the comeback after loading the bases in the top of the seventh but were inly able to scratch one run across.

Utah returns to action today when it plays Colorado State at 10 a.m. MST

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