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Utes Score Five Runs in Extra Innings to Top GCU 6-5

Feb 11, 2021

PHOENIX – Left fielder Haley Denning went 3-5 and delivered a 3-run triple in the top of the eighth inning to break open the game and give Utah a 6-1 lead, and the Utes held on to win their season opener 6-5 Thursday at Grand Canyon. Sydney Sandez did not allow an earned run in 7 2/3 innings pitched to earn the win for Utah.

The Utes begin the season 1-0 for the fifth year in a row and 10th time in head coach Amy Hogue's 14 seasons at the helm.
 
Utah and GCU entered extra innings tied at 1-1 after both teams went scoreless over the previous three innings following a run from GCU in the bottom of the fourth to even the score. The Utes exploded in the top of the eighth and proved to ultimately needed every run to secure the win.
 
Madi Jacobus and Sophie Jacquez led off the eighth with back-to-back base hits. Jordyn Gasper reached base on a fielder's choice, advancing Jacobus to third, followed by a walk to Alyssa Palacios to load the bases for Denning. She lined a shot into the left field gap to clear the bases and give Utah a 5-1 lead, then scored on a wild pitch to extend the advantage to 6-1.
 
Grand Canyon mounted a rally of its own in the bottom of the eighth, scoring four runs to narrow the gap to 6-5, and had runners on first and third with two outs, but Sandez fielded a come-backer to secure the third out and the victory for Utah. Sandez allowed just 4 hits, two walks and struck out two in nearly going the distance, yielding to freshman Mariah Lopez in her first career appearance for a portion of the eighth inning. Sandez re-entered the game and forced the final two outs to help put the game away.
 
QUOTABLE
Head Coach Amy Hogue:
"What a day for Haley Denning, and this is her hometown. We're just minutes from her house, so it was fun for her to be able to do that. The biggest thing is that she was having fun. She's such a competitor … and I really saw her just have a fun time today, even before the triple. We talk a lot about doing things in that order: Have a good time, and good things will happen, and she really did that today."
 
"Sydney (Sandez) was great. The thing that was fun about her was that she really had more pitches that we didn't even use yet. Her speeds have gotten up and she overpowered on the inside part of the plate for most of the game. We had to start mixing a few more pitches in late, but she has so many more tools that we didn't have to get into."
 
"It really showed that this game is never over and you have to find a way to still go out and make plays until the last out. We have some veteran kids who got a little on their heels, and that's why it was so fun to be able to have Syd go back out and show how it's done. She really led us."
 
STANDOUT STAT
Utah pounded out four hits and added two walks to mount its eighth-inning rally, scoring five runs to take a 6-1 lead.
 
NOTABLE

  • It had been 341 days since Utah's last game, March 7, 2020.
  • The Utes' first run of the season came in the top of the first when Alyssa Barrera singled to center field to score Haley Denning, who had led off the season with a bunt single and stole second.
  • Denning's big night (3-5) included 3 RBI, 2 runs, a triple and a spectacular catch to end the seventh inning and set up the Utes' offensive outburst in the top of the eighth.
  • Madi Jacobus went 2-4 and scored a run.
  • A single by Sophie Jacquez in the 8th was her first collegiate hit.
  • Freshman Mariah Lopez made her first collegiate pitching appearance in the eighth inning, facing five batters.
  • Utah left 5 runners on base through the first three innings while building a 1-0 lead, and stranded 10 for the game. While it forced Utah to go to extra innings, that experience of batting with runners on base, and in scoring position, will be valuable for the Utes going forward.

NEXT UP
Utah begins play Friday in the three-day Kajikawa Classic, hosted by Arizona State in Tempe. The Utes will face Seattle on Friday at 12 p.m. MT, followed by a clash with BYU at 3 p.m. Find more at ASU's Kajikawa Classic Tournament Central.