Softball Defeats No. 11 Oregon in Pac-12 Opener, 5-2
SALT LAKE CITY- Utah softball earned their first Pac-12 and home win of the season, defeating the 11th-ranked Oregon Ducks on Friday, 5-2. This is the first time since 2019 that Utah has taken the first game of a three-game series against the Ducks and breaks their current five-game skid.
"It was a great start for conference play and I'm extremely proud of Shi and how she lead us in the circle today," head coach Amy Hogue said. "The hitters committed to the plan that coach DJ worked on with them and good things happened because of it."
Shi Smith twirled a gem in the circle, striking out six while only giving up two earned runs through seven innings of work. This is the fifth time Smith has collected five or more strike outs during her outing on the season. Four different Utes recorded an RBI with Jordyn Gasper delivering two RBI in the third. Haley Denning and Julia Jimenez led the way for Utah offensively, each finishing 2-3 on the day with an extra-base hit to their name. Jimenez would drive in the first run of the game with her fifth double of the season while Denning scored the Utes final run off a sacrifice fly, courtesy of Ellessa Bonstrom.
The series will conclude tomorrow with a doubleheader as Utah looks to take the series with a chance to sweep. First pitch will be thrown at 12:00pm MT and game three will follow thirty minutes after game two concludes.
Game 1: Utah 5, Oregon 2
Graduate transfer Shi Smith got the nod in the circle for the Utes in her tenth appearance while making her seventh start on the season. Oregon quickly produced a threat in the top of the first inning as the first two batters singled to place runners on first and second base. Smith bounced back with a strikeout and then issued a double play handled by Ali Belarde and Julia Jimenez to bring up the Utes. In the bottom half of the first, Bonstrom reached on an error and scored by a Jimenez's double that came with two outs in the inning to give Utah a 1-0 lead.
Oregon responded in the second with a two-out single that tied the game up, 1-1. Halle Morris led off the second for the Utes with a double, her second of the season. AJ Militello replaced Morris as a pinch-runner and advanced to third after Destiny White grounded out to second base. In the ensuing at-bat, Katie Faulk laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to score Militello and pick up an RBI and put Utah on top again, 2-1.
Smith made quick work of the Ducks in the third, retiring the side in order while tallying her third strikeout. In the bottom frame, Haley Denning dropped a bunt single to reach first followed by Bonstrom working a four-pitch walk. Jacquez then grounded into a fielder's choice to third base and MK Gomez would enter as a pinch-runner for Jacquez and remain in the game. Jimenez would then fly out to push Bonstrom to third and Gomez managed to advance to second following some trickery on the base path. Jordyn Gasper delivered with a clutch two-out single to score both runners and extend the lead to 4-1.
The Ducks got a run back in the fourth with a solo home run to center field and cut Utah's lead to 4-2. Smith was unfazed by the big fly and came back to retire the next two batters.
In the bottom of the fifth, Denning recorded her first triple of the season after slapping a ball right over the pitcher's head that would roll all the way to the outfield wall. In the next at-bat, Bonstrom lifted a fly ball to left-field to score Denning easily and stretch the lead, 5-2. Following the run, Gomez and Jimenez each singled to put runners on the corners but Utah was unable to take advantage and left both runners stranded.
Continuing her dominance into the sixth inning, Smith sat the Ducks down while picking up her sixth strikeout of the day. The Utes failed to make any progress in their half of the sixth after a couple of ground outs and a strikeout. Later in the seventh, Smith would retire the side in order to put away the Ducks in game one.
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