Softball: Utes kick off Pac-12 play with sweep of Oregon State

Utah Softball vs. CSU Justin Adams

Utah softball (21-9, 3-0) swept the No. 23 Oregon State Beavers (20-7-1, 0-3) over the weekend to start 3-0 in Pac-12 conference play and increase its overall winning streak to five games.

“It’s a turning point for us,” said head coach Amy Hogue. “We showed offensively what we’re capable of doing, and we needed that momentum going into what’s in front of us in the Pac-12.”

Saturday afternoon at Dumke Stadium, the Utes got their first victory over a ranked team this season, beating the Beavers 7-5. After OSU jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, Ute starting pitcher Katie Donovan held the Beavers scoreless through the second and third innings. In the fourth inning, Kristen Stewart drove home Urtez for Utah’s first run. With runners on first and second, Hogue put in pitcher Hailey Hilburn to pinch-hit, and Hilburn hammered a three-run homer, the first dinger of her college career, to put the Utes up 4-3.

“Everyone else thought [the ball] was gone, but I thought it was going to hit the fence, so I was just running as fast as I could,” Hilburn said.

OSU responded in the fifth with a home run to tie the game and then put in freshman pitcher Meehra Nelson. In the bottom of the fifth, Nelson loaded the bases and hit Maddie Roth with a pitch, brining home Delilah Pacheco to give Utah a 5-4 lead.

In a game of key plays by freshmen, Dickman delivered another double to score two runs, putting the Utes up 7-4. The Beavers scored in the sixth to pull within two, in what would be their final run.

Donovan pitched the full seven innings, earning her tenth win of the season.

On Sunday, Utah upset the Beavers for a second straight game, winning 14-6.

Utah started off the first inning with a bang, scoring four runs on five hits to start the game. Hannah Flippen hit a solo home run to put the Utes up 1-0. Bowen doubled home Urtez from second, then Ally Dickman blasted her second home run of the season to push Utah’s lead to four.

Beaver starting pitcher Meehra Nelson, who had an 11-2 record coming into the game, was chased from the contest after Bowen’s RBI double.

OSU responded in the second, scoring on a McKenna Arriola RBI single to close the gap to three. In Utah’s half of the inning, Pacheco scored on a RBI groundout by Bowen to make it 5-1. In the third inning, the Beavers went on a scoring tear, plating four runs on five hits to tie the game. In the bottom of the fourth, however, Bowen hit a grand slam, putting the Utes back on top, 9-5. Bowen would finish the day with seven RBIs, a career high.

“I knew coming in that I had to be clutch, so I just kept it simple and got the job done,” Bowen said.

OSU cut the lead to three in the sixth on a RBI single, but Utah got the run back in its half of the frame when Urtez scored Pacheco. In the bottom of the sixth, the Utes scored four runs on five hits, evoking the run rule.

Miranda Viramontes pitched the complete game, throwing 154 pitches, improving her record to 5-2.

On Monday, Utah completed the sweep of the Beavers, led by Hannah Flippen, who had two home runs on the day.

Again, the Utes started off early, scoring four runs on four hits in the first inning. OSU responded by scoring two in the second, but Utah matched the Beavers, plating two in its half of the inning to increase the lead to 6-2. In the third frame, Flippen homered for the second time, giving Utah an 8-2 lead. In the fifth, Utah scored on an OSU error, to increase the lead to 9-2. Both teams were held scoreless through the remainder of the game.

Donovan, who started the game, was replaced by Hilburn, but Hilburn allowed three runs so Donovan re-entered in the fifth and won her 11th game.

“It means a lot to our team [to sweep OSU], especially since we have been focusing on not only beating the teams that we’re supposed to beat, but beating the better teams,” Dickman said. “To see our team come out and really push as a team effort and win, that’s really big for us.”

Utah travels to Tucson this week where they will face 20-9 Arizona in a three-game series, starting on Thursday at 7 p.m. MT.