Three Matchups with Ranked Pac-12 Foes Await Utes Softball in Tempe
The Utah Softball program has not shied away from constructing a challenging non-conference schedule, including the scheduling of several highly-ranked Pac-12 opponents for additional contests that won't count toward conference standings, but will prepare the team for the competitive Pac-12 slate.
The Utes (9-2) will take on No. No. 1/1 UCLA, No. 8/10 Oregon and No. 13/11 ASU in a three-game visit to Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday and Monday. All three games will be livestreamed by ASU. Utah brings a record of 9-2 into the weekend after playing the bulk of its games in the Kajikawa Classic (Feb. 12-14) and the UNLV Desert Classic (Feb. 19-21). This week's USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll has Utah just outside the top 25, receiving 38 votes.
|Sun., Feb. 28||vs. Oregon (#8/10)||5 p.m. MT||WATCH | LIVESTATS|
|Mon., March 1||vs. UCLA (#1/1)||2 p.m. MT||WATCH | LIVESTATS|
|Mon., March 1||at ASU (#13/11)||5 p.m. MT||WATCH | LIVESTATS|
*Rankings: USA Today/NFCA listed first; ESPN.com/USA Softball second
PAC-12/NATIONAL STAT RANKINGS
- Utah leads the Pac-12 in stolen bases per game (1.64), and is 18-22 on the season
- 3B Ellessa Bonstrom is tied for 2nd in the country in HRs (7) and 16th (2nd Pac-12) in HRs per game (0.64)
- P Sydney Sandez is tied for the national lead in wins (5-0)
- The Utes are 9-2 for the second consecutive year; having started last season 10-2
- Utah is 4-0 in 1-run games and has three wins (3-2) when trailing after 5 innings (2-2 when trailing after 6).
- The Utes are outscoring opponents 21-6 in the sixth and seventh innings combined
- Utah has scored 10 or more runs 4 times in the first 11 games, and had 10+ hits 5 times with a high of 15 on Feb. 20 vs. UNLV.
- The Utes scored a combined 28 runs in two wins on Feb. 20 at the UNLV Desert Classic (14-7 over CBU and 14-12 over UNLV)
- Five Utah players hit .350 or better over the five games last weekend, led by Julia Noskin (.500; 8-16) and Madi Jacobus (.476; 10-21), and all five are now hitting over .325 for the season
Avg.: Madi Jacobus, .436 | Haley Denning, .395 | Julia Noskin, .353
Hits: Haley Denning/Madi Jacobus, 17 | Alyssa Barrera, 13
HR: Ellessa Bonstrom, 7 | Alyssa Barrera, 3 | Katie Faulk/Madi Jacobus, 2
RBI: Alyssa Barrera/Ellessa Bonstrom, 17 | Madi Jacobus 8
SB: Haley Denning, 10 | Julia Noskin 5
Slug: Ellessa Bonstrom, 1.063 | Alyssa Barrera, .625 | Madi Jacobus, .615
Wins: Sydney Sandez, 5 | Halle Morris, 2
ERA: Sydney Sandez, 2.43 | Halle Morris, 2.76
IP: Sydney Sandez, 31.2 | Mary Beth Feldman, 15.2 | Mariah Lopez, 13.0
Ks: Sydney Sandez, 18 | Mariah Lopez, 17 | Mary Beth Feldman, 11
THE LAST TIME
Oregon: May 5, 2019 (Salt Lake City), W 11-3 (5 inn.)
UCLA: April 28, 2019 (L.A.), L 10-0 (5 inn.)
ASU: Feb. 14, 2021 (Las Vegas), L 9-4
Centerfielder Alyssa Barrera ranks fourth in career batting average at Utah, at .364 (209-574). 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 .325 start in 2021 (13-40). Barrera now has 209 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.
Utah's large freshman class has made an impact already in 2021. Six of the eight have seen game action thus far: Aliya Belarde, Alicia Estrada, Sophie Jacquez, Mariah Lopez, Shelbi Ortiz and Savanah Whatley.
- Mariah Lopez earned her first career win at UNLV last Sunday, allowing just four hits and a walk in a complete-game performance. She struck out 11 batters—including the last three she faced, to end the game—the most by a Utah pitcher since 2012 when Generra Nielson struck out 12 against Utah Valley (5/8/12).
- Madi Jacobus carries a nine-game hitting streak into this week's action. She batted .476 (10-21) in the five-game UNLV Desert Classic tournament to take over the team batting lead at .436 (17-39).
- Ellessa Bonstrom's first-inning HR in last Sunday's 6-3 win over UNLV was her fourth HR in a three-game stretch over two days. The four HRs came in a span of 10 trips to the plate (8 AB, plus 2 walks). She was hit by pitch in two of her last three at-bats that day to finish the game 1-2.
- Julia Scardina hit her first career home run last Sunday a pinch-hit solo shot to extend Utah's lead to 5-3.
- Scardina became the sixth Utah player to homer this year, joining Bonstrom (7), Barrera (3), Jacobus (2), Faulk (2) and Morris (1). Utah has 16 HRs on the year to their opponents' 7.
- Utah has hit 9 HRs in its past 3 games, including a season-high 4 in last night's 14-12 win at UNLV.
- Alyssa Barrera is batting .400 (12-30) over the past 8 games with 3 HR, 3 doubles, 8 runs and 15 RBI. She gave Utah an early 1-0 lead last Sunday with her third homer of the year, the first of back-to-back shots, with Bonstrom following Barrera's blast with her 7th of the year.
- Haley Denning saw her season-opening hitting streak halted at 10 games last Sunday, as she went hitless in three at-bats for the first time this season. Denning's .395 average (17-43) ranks second on the team and she leads the Utes in stolen bases (10-11). She hit her first career triple with the bases loaded in extra innings in the season-opening win at GCU.
This year's captains representing the Utes are fifth-year Alyssa Barrera and fellow seniors Alyssa Palacios and Julia Noskin.
UNLV DESERT CLASSIC REVIEW
For the second tournament in a row the Utes won four of five games in a weekend, defeating host UNLV twice (14-12, 6-3) and Weber State (4-3) and California Baptist (14-7) once each at the Desert Classic in Las Vegas. The lone loss came to CBU (5-3). After splitting Day 1 the Utes responded with back-to-back 14-run games on Saturday, and closed out the weekend with freshman Mariah Lopez's 11-strikeout complete game win on Sunday. Julia Noskin batted .500 for the weekend, Madi Jacobus batted .476 and Ellessa Bonstrom belted four home runs in a stretch of 8 at-bats over three games, all wins.
KAJIKAWA CLASSIC AND GCU REVIEW
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 358-319-1 record and sports a 555-401-1 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 faced ASU, then the UNLV Desert Classic Feb. 19-21 in Las Vegas. This weekend's return trip to Tempe (Feb. 28-March 1) 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, and a single game at BYU March 16.
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's schedule includes 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.
THE 2021 UTES AT A GLANCE
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).
Utah will have the weekend off next week before traveling to St. George, Utah, March 12-14 for the Dixie State Tournament. The Utes will play four games against Southern Utah, Boise State, Weber State and host Dixie State.