Softball Travels to Las Vegas for UNLV Desert Classic
Taking to the road for the second weekend in a row, the Utah Softball team (5-1) travels to Las Vegas for five games in the UNLV Desert Classic, to be played at Eller Media Stadium. The tournament is hosted by UNLV. The Utes began their 2021 season in impressive fashion last week taking five of six games in Arizona, and are receiving votes in the polls. This week's USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll has Utah just outside the top 25, receiving the most votes among unranked teams (32).
|UNLV Desert Classic||UNLV – Eller Media Field||Tournament Central|
|Fri., Feb. 19||vs. Weber State||11 a.m. MT||WATCH | LIVESTATS|
|Fri., Feb. 19||vs. California Baptist||1:30 p.m. MT||WATCH | LIVESTATS|
|Sat., Feb. 20||vs. California Baptist||1:30 p.m. MT||WATCH | LIVESTATS|
|Sat., Feb. 20||at UNLV||4 p.m. MT||WATCH | LIVESTATS|
|Sun., Feb. 21||at UNLV||12 p.m. MT||WATCH | LIVESTATS|
- Soph. Haley Denning has led off the season on a tear, leading the team with a .435 average and four stolen bases in five attempts. Dennis, who .397 as a freshman in 2020, has a hit in all six games this season and hit her first career triple with the bases loaded in extra innings in the season-opening win at GCU.
- Jr. Ellessa Bonstrom has three HRs in the season's first six games. She led Utah in 2020 with five HRs in 18 games.
- Jr. Sydney Sandez is 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA and 11 strikeouts and just 3 walks in 19.0 IP. She did not allow an earned run in her first 18.0 innings pitched this season and logged a complete-game shutout with 6 Ks in a 1-0 win over BYU in the Kajikawa Classic (2/13).
- Fifth-year Alyssa Barrera leads the team with 8 RBI, courtesy of some clutch hitting: She is 4-7 with runners in scoring position, while soph. Madi Jacobus, second on the team in batting with a .389 average, is 4-8 with runners in scoring position.
- Utah scored 10 runs in each of its final two games against Seattle in the tournament, the team's most since a 13-6 win over Mercer on March 7, 2020. Last year Utah had three games with 10 or more runs and already has two in the first six games of this season.
- The Utes have had 10 or more hits in three of the six games thus far.
- Utah opened the season being tested in pressure situations and came away with three consecutive victories in one-run games.
- For the second year in a row the Utes began the season 4-0. The first loss for this year's squad came against No. 15/16 Arizona State in game 5, while last year's squad opened 6-0.
- Five true freshmen have seen their first collegiate action for the Utes through the season's first six games: Alicia Estrada, Sophie Jacquez, Mariah Lopez, Shelbi Ortiz and Savanah Whatley.
THE LAST TIME
Weber State: April 23, 2019 (Salt Lake City), L 2-0
California Baptist: First Meeting
UNLV: Feb. 16, 2015 (Las Vegas), W 10-2 (6)
QUICK GLANCE AT THE 2021 UTES
Under 14th-year head coach Amy Hogue, Utah's 2021 team is talented and deep, led by two-time NFCA All-Region selection Alyssa Barrera (fifth-year). The center fielder, who returns for her "super senior" year after the 2020 season was cut short, entered the season ranked fourth in Utah history with a .367 batting average. Barrera hit .421 with a .492 on-base percentage while slugging .649 in 2020, and was one of just two Pac-12 players to rank in the top 20 in those individual categories, as well as runs scored.
- Six other starting position players returned, including sophomore LF and leadoff batter Haley Denning (.397, 12-12 stolen bases in 2020), sophomore 2B Madi Jacobus (team-leading 7 doubles and 17 RBI), junior 3B Ellessa Bonstrom (.380, 5 HRs and team leading .740 slugging percentage) and senior SS Julia Noskin, who was a 2019 NFCA all-region choice.
- All three pitchers who accounted for every inning pitched for the Utes in 2020 are back this season.
- Junior Sydney Sandez has been the leader of the staff for each of the past two seasons, and finished 2020 with a record of 11-3 with a 2.42 ERA. She pitched three complete games and added two saves.
- The staff is bolstered by sophomores Mary Beth Feldman (3-1, 3.32 ERA) and Halle Morris (0-0, 4.44).
- Eight talented freshmen also provide an influx of talent and depth for the Utes in 2021, hailing from Utah (1), Arizona (1) and California (6).
- Centerfielder Alyssa Barrera ranks fourth in career batting average at Utah, at .363 (202-566). She batted .381 as a freshman in 2017 (64-168), .322 in 2018 (49-152), .376 in 2019 (59-157) .421 in 2020 (24-57) and is off to a .273 start in 2021 (6-22).
- Barrera now has 202 career hits. She needs to reach 245 to break into Utah's all-time top 5 and 264 to break Hannah Flippen's school record.
This year's captains representing the Utes are fifth-year Alyssa Barrera and fellow seniors Alyssa Palacios and Julia Noskin.
KAJIKAWA CLASSIC AND GCU REVIEW (Feb. 11-14)
Utah won four of its five games Feb. 12-14 at the Kajikawa Classic at Arizona State, after winning its season opener the night before at Grand Canyon, 6-5. The Utes claimed three wins over Seattle and a 1-0 shutout of BYU, with the only loss coming against tournament host No. 15/16 ASU.
- In the season opener at GCU, the Utes rallied for five runs in the top of the 8th and needed every one of them after GCU battled back with 4 runs of its own, for the 6-5 win.
- Utah scored 10 runs twice in wins over Seattle, and won its first two tournament games by one run (2-1 over Seattle and 1-0 over BYU) to claim one-run victories in each of the season's first three games.
- The Utes showed considerable fight after falling behind 9-0 to ASU, rallying for four runs with timely hitting, including a two-run double by Alyssa Barrera into the right-field corner for her 200th career hit.
- Haley Denning had a hit in all six games for the week (10-23; .435) and Ellessa Bonstrom homered in three of the five tournament games.
A GRADUATE AND A "SUPER SENIOR"
Fifth-year Alyssa Barrera earned her bachelor's degree from Utah in April 2020 and elected to come back for her "Super Senior" season in 2021 when the NCAA allowed that choice after the 2020 season was cut short due to the pandemic. Barrera's degree is in Communications, with a minor in Business.
Utah's roster features two players who have earned NFCA All-Region honors during their career.
- CF Alyssa Barrera earned all-region honors for the first time in 2017, and for a second time in 2019 when she paced Utah with a .376 batting average (13th Pac-12), 59 hits, 37 RBI and a .432 on-base percentage. She also finished second on the team with 30 runs scored, nine doubles and a .599 slugging percentage. Barrera's seven triples led the Pac-12 and ranked fifth nationally while tying the school record.
- Julia Noskin picked up her first NFCA honor in 2019 after leading Utah with 36 runs scored and nine stolen bases in 2019. She was second on the team with 54 hits and ranked third in batting (.318). Noskin also paced the Pac-12 with 130 fielding assists and her prowess in the field helped Utah turn a league-best 28 double plays.
HEAD COACH AMY HOGUE | 14th YEAR (Utah '94)
Amy Hogue is in her 22nd season affiliated with the Utah Softball program and 14th as head coach. Hogue, who was inducted into the Utah Athletics Hall of Fame in 2020, has made an incredible impact on the program as a student-athlete (1991-94), assistant coach (1996-99) and head coach (2008-present).
- In her 14th season as the Utes' head coach, Hogue has a 354-318-1 record and sports a 551-400-1 overall mark in her 20th year as a collegiate head coach.
- The 2015 Pac-12 Coach of the Year led the Utes to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths from 2015-2017, including back-to-back Super Regionals for the first time in program history (2016, 2017).
- In 2020 she guided the Utes to a blazing 14-4 start and a No. 21 national ranking before the season was cut short just prior to the start of Pac-12 play because of COVID-19 concerns.
- A standout performer for the Utes from 1991-1994, Hogue earned second team All-America honors and WAC Player of the Year as a senior.
- Before becoming Utah's head coach, Hogue built and mentored Salt Lake Community College's program from 1999-2004.
TOURNAMENT PLAY AND PAC-12 PREVIEW
Before Pac-12 Conference play officially commences on March 19, Utah will have played in three tournaments and taken on three Pac-12 opponents for four additional games. Utah took part in Arizona State's Kajikawa Classic Feb. 12-14, in which it will face ASU, then the ULNV Desert Classic Feb. 19-21 in Las Vegas. A return trip to Tempe Feb. 28-March will give the Utes a chance to face Oregon, UCLA and ASU in a conference preview, before finishing tournament play March 12-14 at the Dixie State Tournament in St. George, Utah.
PAC-12 SCHEDULE IN 2021
In Pac-12 Conference play this year, teams will play a four-game series each weekend, with a doubleheader on the second day of each series. Only three of the four games will count toward the Conference standings, meaning each team will play a total of 32 games against league opponents in the conference portion of the schedule (March 19-May 15), but only 24 will count toward determining the Pac-12 champion.
- The two single games and the first game of the doubleheader, regardless of day, will count as Conference games.
- If all four games are played, the second game on Day 2 of each series will be counted as a non-conference game.
- If only three contests are completed in total, all will count as Conference games.
- Utah has four other non-conference games against Pac- 12 foes, one against ASU in the Kajikawa Classic (Feb. 13) and three others (vs. Oregon, UCLA and ASU) in Tempe, Ariz., Feb. 28-March 1.
While Utah received votes in the preseason rankings, falling just outside the Top 25, five Pac-12 opponents the Utes will face in 2021 were ranked in the preseason poll. Utah will play a combined 24 games against No. 1 UCLA (5), No. 2 Washington (4), No. 3 Arizona (4), No. 10 Oregon (5) and No. 16 ASU (6). The updated polls are here.
UTES CONTINUE TO EXCEL IN THE CLASSROOM
Utah placed eight student-athletes on the Pac-12 Spring Academic Honor Roll in 2020. Two-time NFCA All-Region honoree and All-Pac-12 performer Alyssa Barrera received her third academic award. Julia Noskin, another Ute recognized as an All-Pac-12 player, notched her second academic honor, as did BreOnna Castaneda and Katie Faulk, while Ellessa Bonstrom, Haley Denning, Claire Feldman and Jordyn Gasper earned their first Pac-12 academic honors. Utah has had 33 student-athletes earn 53 Pac-12 All-Academic honors since joining the conference in 2012.
CELEBRATING A HOMECOMING
The Utah softball program has produced countless leaders who have gone on to significant careers in a variety of professions, including head coach Amy (Timmel) Hogue (1991-94). Another who has risen in the intercollegiate athletics world is two-time All-American Charmelle Green, who starred at Utah from 1988-91, and was a teammate of Coach Hogue. It was announced Jan. 26 that Green will be returning to her to Utah as deputy A.D. and chief operating officer, beginning March 1. Green, who was inducted into the Utah Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001, and joined by Hogue in 2020, has spent the past 10 years at Penn State.
After back-to-back weekend tournaments the Utes will have a couple extra days off before returning to Tempe, Ariz., Feb. 28-March 1 for three-games in two days against Pac-12 rivals Oregon (Feb. 28), UCLA (March 1) and ASU (March 1) at ASU's Farrington Stadium. The games will not count as conference contests.