Ready to rise

S-Softball Colby Patterson

The Utes are ready to play ball.

Utah will open the 2014 campaign this weekend at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. After finishing 2013 with a 24-30-1 record and a 7-17 mark in conference play, the Utes will be looking to rise in the Pac-12 standings.

“We have checked off everything on the list we need to do,” Utah head coach Amy Hogue says. “It’s time to play ball games.”

While high points of the Utes’ season a year ago included series wins over No. 2 Arizona State and No. 15 UCLA, Hogue says a point of emphasis in 2014 will be to focus on their own performance and not what the rest of the conference is doing.

“We don’t look at the other teams all that much,” she says. “Part of our focus this year has been exactly that […] it’s not about what they’re going to bring, it’s about what we’re going to bring.”

Utah will welcome seven new players who will try to help fill three open infield positions. Of the seven newcomers to join Hogue’s squad, six are freshmen. One of those players is Hannah Flippen, who is slated to be the regular starter at second base.

“It will be something that I’m used to,” Flippen says. “I’m excited for that.”

The other two positions that need to be filled are shortstop and first base, but Hogue says those decisions won’t be made immediately and she will be experimenting with different players at those spots.

“It’s been fun because we have a lot of talent,” she says. “We have a lot of versatile players, so even going into the first weekend, we will mix it up quite a bit.”

Other new members of the team include freshmen Bridget Castro, Sammy Cordova, Bella Secaira, Autumn Shipp, and Anissa Urtez, and junior Maddy Woodard, who transferred from Salt Lake Community College. She was named SWAC Player of the Year, NJCAA First-Team All-American, and NFCA All-American in 2013.

The Utes will be led by four captains this year. Usually teams only have two, but the squad felt strongly about the leaders it chose and decided to keep all four.

At the Kajikawa Classic, Utah will play doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday and one game on Sunday. The Utes will compete in two more classics and a tournament before conference play begins on March 14. Hogue says preparing for that time of the year will be the main goal over the next six weeks.

“Making sure that our attitude and our energy and our effort are to full-tilt every single game we play,” she says. “We have a lot of standards that we are going to make sure that we are meeting.”

d.garcia@chronicle.utah.edu