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Softball Opens Pac-12 Play Against No. 11 Oregon at Home

Mar 17, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY- The Utes are back on the field this weekend as they'll host the No. 11 Oregon Ducks for a three-game set this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (March 18-20) in their conference opener. The Ducks enter the matchup on a 11-game winning streak and an overall record of 19-3.

Utah comes into conference play on a five-game skid and wrapped up non-conference play on Tuesday and Wednesday against Wisconsin, falling in all three games. The Utes own a 15-11 overall record and will play against their fourth ranked team of the season.

The last time these two faced off, the Ducks swept the four-game series in Eugene, Ore., and were ranked No. 4 at the time. 

How to Follow
Fans can watch all three games live as a live stream will be available, provided by Utah Athletics. Live stats will also be available for each game and fans can also keep up with live game action by following @Utah_Softball on Twitter.

Scouting the Ducks (19-3)

  • Oregon visits Salt Lake City for the first time since 2019 when the Utes took two of three from the Ducks. The final game on Sunday was Senior Day for Utah and captured the win in dominant fashion, 11-3, in six innings.
  • Oregon began the season ranked No. 18 in the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll and have continued to climb positions, earning a ranking as high as No. 9 after two weeks of play. The Ducks were predicted to finish tied for third in the Pac-12 with Arizona in the 2022 conference preseason poll.   
  • Oregon's offense features five batters hitting over .370 and are led by Hanna Delgado who owns a .452 batting average. Delgado has 33 hits, six doubles, two home runs and has driven in 14 RBI. Tied with her in hits is Allee Bunker who has a .413 average to go along with five home runs and a team leading 25 RBI. The Ducks' home run leader is Ariel Carlson who has hit eight, which is half of her hit total on the season (16).
  • As a team, Oregon's offense has a combined .334 batting average (3rd in Pac-12, 14th in NCAA) and score on average 7.64 runs per game (3rd in Pac-12, 8th in NCAA).
  •  In the circle, Stevie Hansen leads the Ducks with a 4-0 record and an ERA of 1.95. She has struck out 47 on the year and has given up the fewest number of runs (10) on the staff with 30 or more innings pitched. Makenna Kliethermes has seen the most innings pitched (55.2) and is the teams strike out (62) leader. She is also tied for the most wins with seven.
  • As a staff, the Oregon arms have a combined 1.96 ERA (5th in Pac-12, 24th in NCAA), have thrown five shutouts, and posses a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.56 (5th in Pac-12, 16th in NCAA).

Last Time Out
Utah welcomed Wisconsin to Salt Lake City for their home opening series after four consecutive weekends on the road. The Utes collected 21 hits across the three games but were only able to score a total of five runs dropping all three to the Badgers and extending their losing streak to five games.

Senior Ellessa Bonstrom was phenomenal at the plate batting .700 (7-10) with three doubles, an RBI and scoring one run. Senior Jordyn Gasper added a pair of doubles and an RBI to go along with a .429 average. Haley Denning and Sophie Jacquez each scored a run and collected three hits in the series.

Aliya Belarde and AJ Militello both stole their sixth bag of the season in the three-game series.

It was a tough outing for the pitching staff finishing with a combined ERA of 7.11. Sydney Sandez started two of the three games striking out seven Badgers but gave up nine runs, eight of them being earned. Mariah Lopez and Halle Morris each saw time in the circle with Lopez starting one.

Team Stat Leaders (as of 03/17/22)

Batting Avg. Ellessa Bonstrom  .493
Slugging % Ellessa Bonstrom  .910
On Base % Ellessa Bonstrom  .586
Runs Scored Ellessa Bonstrom  23
Hits Ellessa Bonstrom 33
RBI Ellessa Bonstrom 28
Doubles Sophie Jacquez 10
Home Runs Ellessa Bonstrom  6
Stolen Bases Haley Denning  13
ERA Sydney Sandez 2.68 (77.1 IP)
K's  Sydney Sandez  61

National Rankings - Individual 

  • Ellessa Bonstrom ranks 20th in slugging % nationally (.910). 
  • Bonstrom ranks 11th in batting average (.456) and second in the Pac-12 in that category.  
  • Bonstrom also ranks 17th in RBI with 28 (4th in the Pac-12) and T-28th in hits with 33. 
  • Bonstrom sits inside the top-25 (T-22nd) in total bases with 61.  
  • Sophie Jacquez is T-7th in the country with 10 doubles and is second in the Pac-12. T-21st in the NCAA in doubles per game (0.43, 2nd in Pac-12).  
  • Julia Jimenez is one of the toughest to strike out at the plate ranking 39th in the NCAA and 4th in that metric in the conference. 
  • Teammate Katie Faulk jumped into the national rankings and is T-9th with three sacrifice fly's (T-1st in the Pac-12).  
  • Haley Denning is 65th in the NCAA with 0.19 sacrifice bunts per game (4th among Pac-12 players).
  • Denning is T-29th in the country with 13 stolen bases (top of the Pac-12) and is 65th in stolen bases per game (0.50), also leading the conference. 
  • Sandez has been spectacular in the circle ranking 13th in the NCAA in strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.17) and is 7th in walks allowed per seven innings (0.54). 3rd in the Pac-12 in that category.   
  • Sandez is T-12th in the NCAA with 5 shutouts, second among Pac-12 players

National Rankings - Team

  • Utah is fifth in the nation with 57 stolen bases. 
  • No. 12 in the country in stolen bases per game (2.19) and first in the Pac-12. 
  • T-6th in the NCAA with nine stolen bags in a single game. (2/13/22 vs. Cal Baptist). 
  • The Utes also rank 63rd in fielding percentage (.969).  
  • Utah is top-30 with a single-game high of 16 hits vs. Sacramento State (2/19/22).
  • Ranks 19th in strikeout-to-walk ration (4.37). 
  • Tied for 23rd in shut outs with seven. 

Ute Streaks
Five Utes have strung together a hitting streak of six or more this season. Bonstrom and Denning own the longest at nine games with Bonstrom currently on an eight-game streak.

Utah has six batters with six or more multiple hit games. Bonstrom leads the way with 11 multi-hit games and eight multi-RBI games. Denning is right behind with nine mulit-hit games and Julia Jimenez follows Bonstrom in multi-RBI performances with six.

Denning is the team leader with 14 consecutive games of reaching base safely and has reached in her last three games. Bonstrom and Jimenez follow with a streak of 11 earlier this season and Bonstrom is currently on an eight-game streak.

Jacquez owns the longest at the moment reaching base in 10 consecutive games.  

The Utah pitching staff has thrown seven shutouts this season, five of them belonging to Sydney Sandez. Sandez's shutouts have come against Missouri State (4-0), Sacramento State (13-0), San Diego (5-0), UC Davis (8-0) and Seattle University (9-0).

The other two were combined shutouts and both took place on the same day at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Shi Smith got the start in the first game against San Diego, holding it down for 5.1 innings and striking out five before Sandez entered to close the deal, 3-0. The following game, Lopez started in the circle against UC Riverside throwing four innings and allowing two hits while fanning six. Halle Morris entered in the final inning retiring all three batters to give Utah their fifth shutout of the year.

Runs Rule
The Utah offense came out firing in five games this year to put the other team away in run-rule fashion. The Utes secured their first run rule against Cal Baptist at the Kajikawa Classic scoring 11 runs in the first four innings with a couple home run contributions from Bonstrom and White.

Utah's second came against UC Riverside as they were able to score six runs in the bottom of the first. Bonstrom got the fun started blasting a three-run homer to left center as Kendall Lundberg and Elicia Espinosa also hit home runs, the first of Lundberg's collegiate career and Espinosa's second of the season.

A day later the Utes put eight on the board in the first six innings of play against UC Riverside as the pitching staff took care of the Riverside batters throwing a shutout to end the game in six.

The last two shutouts happened on the final day of the Judi Garman Classic as Utah was able to put away Penn and Seattle U in five innings. The Utes put up an eight spot in the fifth innings against Penn to put the game way out of reach and scored four in the first and at least one in the following four innings to capture the 9-0 victory over Seattle.

Set the Tone
The Utes set a new team single-game record in stolen bases with nine bags taken against Cal Baptist earlier this season on the final day of the Kajikawa Classic. Denning, Gasper, Cook, Militello, Gomez, Belarde and Bennett all joined the fun with at least one stolen base. Bennett and Gasper lead the charge on the base paths each taking two.  

A Classic 5-4-3 Triple Play
Utah is just one of two teams in the nation to have recorded a triple play, but the fashion that the Utes rolled the play is rare. George Washington University is the only other school with a triple play, but it came through the air as a 9-3-6 triple play. Against No. 1 Oklahoma, Utah kept the game within one run in the bottom of the fifth after issuing a ground ball right to third where Julia Jimenez fielded cleanly, stepped on the base and threw over to Belarde at second, then on to Bonstrom at first for the quickly turned triple play. 

It is believed to be the second triple play in program history, first on the ground and is the first in similar fashion since 2017 when Florida State executed one against Pitt on Aril 1st. 

Head Coach Amy Hogue | 15th Year ('94)
Amy Hogue is in her 15th season at the helm of her alma mater in 2022, and her 23rd season affiliated with the Utah softball program. Hogue, who was inducted into the Utah Athletics Hall of Fame in the Class of 2020, has made an incredible impact on the program as a student-athlete (1991-1994), assistant coach (1996-1999) and head coach (2008-present). In 14 seasons as the head coach, Hogue has a 386-358-1 record and sports a 583-440-1 overall mark in 20 years as a collegiate head coach.

  • All-time wins leader at Utah
  • 2015 Pac-12 Coach of the Year
  • Led Utah to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths
  • Back-to-back Super Regionals (2016, 2017) for first time in program history.
  • Guided Utah to a 37-16 record in 2017, its best record since 1997.
  • Also had its best mark in the Pac-12 (13-9) since joining the conference in 2012.
  • Attained the program's highest NFCA final ranking at No. 14 in 2017.
  • Utah Athletics Department's 2014-15 Don Reddish Award recipient.
  • Set a program record in 2017 with five players on the NFCA All-Region teams and six earned postseason Pac-12 honors.
  • Coached the only 3x All-American in program history (Hannah Flippen), who was also named Pac-12 Player of the Year, the first since joining the conference and fifth in Utah softball history.

New Year, New Utes
A total of six newcomers join the Utes for the 2022 season. Two of them being freshman and four joining by way of transfer. Notable additions include graduate transfer Shi Smith, who brings a ton of experience to the pitching staff after spending four seasons at Seattle University. Smith currently holds Seattle U career records for strikeouts per seven innings (7.45) and opponent batting average (.231). She led the team with 31 appearances and was named first-team All-WAC in 2021 after posting an ERA of 3.24 and leading the team with 114 strikeouts.

Infielder Julia Jimenez is another impactful transfer from the Michigan program. Jimenez was named second-team All-Big Ten and started all 46 games for the Wolverines in 2021. She brings a hot bat to the plat as she tallied a season-long seven-game hit streak and posted career highs in all offensive categories, including a batting average of .293.

Class of the Pac-12
Since joining the Pac-12 back in 2012, the Utes have had at least three players given All-Pac-12 honors except for the 2018 and the shortened 2020 COVID pandemic seasons. A total of 33 athletes have been selected all-conference, including the last thirteen who have been named to either the first, second or third team. The latest being junior Haley Denning and senior Ellessa Bonstrom, both securing their first All-Pac-12 selections.

Denning was given second-team honors after her standout year in the field and in the batter's box. At the plate, she led the conference in hits (75), stolen bases (31) and nationally ranking fifth and 11th in those categories, respectively. She also garnered five triples to finish 15th in the country. Denning led the Utes in batting average (.391), runs (46), triples (5) and multi-hit games (23). The 31 bags she took were the most by a Utah player since 2001.

Bonstrom earned her third-team honors pacing the Utes in multiple offensive categories barreling 14 home runs, collecting 42 RBI and finishing with clips of .623 and .408 in slugging percentage and on-base percentage, respectively. She ended the season batting .268 with five doubles, a triple and scoring 37 runs.

NFCA Honors  
Haley Denning's post-season awards continued as she was named the 17th first-team all-region selection in program history and the first of her career. Denning was selected first-team NFCA All-Pacific Region after her all-conference performance throughout the 2021 season. Joining Denning as an all-region selection was Halle Morris.

Morris had a breakout season of her own during her sophomore campaign showcasing her versatility as a pitcher, infielder and clutch hitter. She was selected third-team in the Utility/Pitcher category and proved to be one of the team's swiss army knife and indispensable players. Morris saw action across the field playing at third, first, served as a DH and had 36 pitching appearances, the most of any Utah arm.

In the circle, Morris produced the lowest ERA among the pitchers (4.20) with 34 strike outs in 86.2 innings of work. She threw one complete game and had her best outing earning the win against 14th ranked ASU. At the plate, Morris had nine extra-base hits (four home runs, five doubles) and drove in 24 runs. She put together six multi-hit games and six muli-RBI performances.  

A Graduate and a "Super Senior"
Kaite Faulk announced last spring the will return to Utah for her "Super Senior" season. Graduating with her degree in in kinesiology in May 2021, Faulk comes back as the primary catcher after starting 128 times at the position in her career. In 2021, she batted .202 with two doubles, four homeruns and 12 RBI. She also had four multi-hit games and a seven-game hitting streak.

Off the field, Faulk is a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection and in 2021 was named to the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll. She has served with fellow Utah student-athletes on the Crimson Council years, including as President in 2020-21 after a term as Vice President the year before. Faulk has also led the organization's Mental Health sub-committee and continues to be part of the Wellness Ambassadors group, focusing on expanding the organization's "Unmuted" mental health campaign.  

Haley Denning
Destiny White
AJ Militello
Madi Jacobus

Follow the Utes
For fans of the Utah softball program, follow the Utes on Twitter (@Utah_Softball), Instagram (@utahsoftball) and Facebook (@utesoftball).