Softball: Utes rebound to sweep doubleheader over SUU

_DSC6295 Emily Juchau

After suffering a defeat to BYU on Tuesday, the Utes turned their frowns upside-down with two blowouts in a doubleheader against Southern Utah on Wednesday, outscoring the Thunderbirds 23-5 in the pair of contests.

“Winning is always great, and doing it twice at home is fantastic,” said Utah head coach Amy Hogue.

The first game was won by a score of 12-4 after a seven-run fourth inning catapulted Utah to the first-game victory. The Utes carried that momentum into the second game by continuing to score in bunches, putting together a five-run inning on their way to an 11-1 shortened win, and sweep, over the Thunderbirds.

Centerfielder Delilah Pacheco said it meant a lot to beat an in-state team, especially after the loss earlier in the week.

“[The loss against BYU] gave us a lot of motivation, and the wins [against SUU] made us feel better about ourselves. We want to prove that we’re the best in Utah — and we are. Just some games get away from us,” Pacheco said.

After an Anissa Urtez RBI single in the first game gave the Utes an early one-run lead, the Thunderbirds shocked the Utes by scoring three runs off pitcher Miranda Viramontes in the top of the third. Utah responded in the bottom of the inning, scoring three runs to retake the lead, 4-3.

The Thunderbirds, who had lost 17 straight games coming into the matchup with Utah, tied the game in the fourth inning on a Kylee Wolf RBI single.

In their half of the fourth, the Utes scored seven runs in the frame. Kristen Stewart, who went 5-for-7 with four runs and three RBIs in both games, got the ball rolling for Utah with a two-RBI double that scored Kay Kay Fronda and Shelby Pacheco to put the Utes up 5-4. Utah built on their lead when Urtez lofted a ball to right field, where an error allowed Stewart and Delilah Pacheco to score.

After not taking advantage of opportunities against the Cougars on Tuesday, Hogue talked about being more aggressive and adjusting to the other team on offense, and the Utes took heed.

“That’s what our game is all about, learning from our mistakes and assessing and adjusting,” Hogue said. “I feel like we did that, so I was happy with that.”

On a sacrifice fly later in the fourth, Urtez and Hannah Flippen scored to make it 10-4. The Utes tacked on another run in the same inning on another Thunderbird error. That allowed Ally Dickman, who hit a triple on the play before, to touch home plate. The Utes’ fourth inning totaled seven runs on just two hits, with two Southern Utah errors.

In the fifth inning, Stewart hit a ball right between Thunderbird pitcher Kirsten Hostetler’s legs, scoring Delilah Pacheco from second, enacting the mercy rule when the Utes went up 12-4.

Hailey Hilburn earned the win, allowing only one run, to improve her record to 5-1 on the season. The Utes continued their pattern of winning the game after a loss.

“We are a team that gets better over time, and we don’t do the same wrong thing twice, so I feel like their adjustments don’t usually allow them to stay down for too long,” Hogue said.

Just 45 minutes after the first game, Southern Utah opened the second game with a Jordan Theurer RBI double to put the Thunderbirds up 1-0 early on. Utah responded in the bottom of the first, scoring three runs — two on a throwing error and one on a wild pitch by freshman Cheyenne Cudahy.

The Utes added to their lead in the third, scoring five runs in the inning. Chudahy walked Bowen with the bases loaded to bring home a run, then Bridget Castro, pinch-hitting for Shelby Pacheco, sent Bowen and Aubrey Peterson — pinch-running for Dickman — home to make it 8-1.

In the fourth, Bowen tripled down the right-field line, scoring Urtez and Stewart to put Utah up 10-1. Bowen crossed home when Bella Secaira grounded out to SUU shortstop Javlyn Weaver to give the Utes an 11-1 lead.

The game was called in the middle of the fifth due to the mercy rule. Katie Donovan started and finished the game with five strikeouts, only allowing one run for the win. Donovan’s record now stands at 9-6 on the year.

The Utes open Pac-12 play with a three-game series against Oregon State at Dumke Softball Stadium, beginning on Friday. First pitch is at 1 p.m. MT.