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Softball Splits Opening Day at Kajikawa Classic

Feb 12, 2022

TEMPE, Ariz. – Utah softball split their two opening games at the Kajikawa Classic on Friday, losing in heart breaking fashion to fifth-ranked Oklahoma State and bouncing back to shutout the Bears of Missouri State.
With Friday's results, Utah sits at 1-1 after the first day of play.

Game 1: Utah vs. #5 OSU (L, 4-3)
The Utes jumped out to an early lead courtesy of senior Ellessa Bonstrom, who blasted a solo shot over the right field wall in the top of the first to give Utah the 1-0 advantage. Bonstrom was seeing the ball well that afternoon and in her next plate appearance (T4), turned on another one and drove her second solo shot of the day over the right-center field fence. The 26th home run of her career and Utah's bats were just heating up.

The ensuing batter, junior transfer Julia Jimenez, ripped a hard-line drive to the wall in left-center field hustling around first and sliding into second safely for the double. Junior Destiny White followed and put the ball in play on the right side of the field, grounding out to second and was able to advance Jimenez to third. Senior Jordyn Gasper stepped into the box and in an 0-2 count with two outs, kept her composure and slapped an RBI single into left to extend the lead 3-0 on Cowgirls.

Graduate transfer, Shi Smith, was named the opening day starter and was showing great command in the circle. Smith went 1-2-3 in both the bottom of the first and second innings, sitting down the first two batters she faced in the second. Smith gave up her first hit in the third and found herself in a jam walking the next hitter and giving up another hit to load the bases. Being the experienced pitcher she is, Smith found the zone and was able to pop-up an OSU batter and collect her fourth and fifth strikeouts of the day to get out of the jam.

OSU threatened again in the bottom of the fourth and was able to tie the game at 3. At that time, Smith's strong outing was done and junior Halle Morris came in for relief. Keeping it low in the zone, Morris was able to get the next two OSU batters to hit soft ground balls and get out of the inning with a tie ball game.

The game stayed knotted up at 3 after the fifth and sixth innings, setting up for a thrilling finish. Freshman transfer Stella Bennett subbed in to pinch hit in the top of the seventh and in her first career at bat, showed her speed as she beat the throw from short to earn her first collegiate hit. Catcher Katie Faulk laid down a sac bunt to advance Bennett and put her in scoring position but the Utes were unable to convert.

Morris came back out to the circle in an effort to send this game into extra-innings and almost did just that issuing a ground ball to third where Jimenez and Aliya Belarde took care of the rest turning the clutch 5-4-3 double-play. But in heart-breaking fashion, OSU's Chyenne Factor hit a high fly ball that had just enough carry to it to walk-off the ball game, 4-3.

Game 2: Utah vs. Missouri State (W, 4-0)
Utah was able to bounce back in their second game of the day as senior Syndey Sandez lead the Utes throwing a complete game shutout and fanning seven. It was a pitching dual throughout most of the game as both kept the competition scoreless heading into the fifth inning.

Freshman Hailey Harris pinch hit to lead off the top of the fifth and was able to draw a walk. Playing a little small ball, Belarde laid down a sac bunt to put the runner in scoring position. Denning was next and continuing the strategy, also put down a sac bunt to move the runner over to third. Once again, it was Bonstrom with a base hit to score the first run of the ball game and break the scoreless drought.

Utah got back to work in the sixth scoring three runs on three hits to extend the lead 4-0, but left three on base. Having a comfortable lead heading back to the circle, Sandez closed out the game earning her first victory and Utah's first win of the 2022 season.

Up Next
Only one game is on the schedule tomorrow for the Utes, another top-20 team in the Duke Blue Devils. Action is slated to begin at 4:30pm and can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.

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