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Softball Ready for Midweek Matchup Against UVU

Mar 28, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY- Utah Softball welcomes the Wolverines of Utah Valley University for an instate matchup on Tuesday, March 29th, at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium. The contest is slated to begin at 3:00pm MT and will be broadcasted live on the Pac-12 Networks.

Since 2004, the Utes have faced off against the Wolverines 32 times and lead the series 28-4. After the 2014 season where Utah swept the season series, the two didn't faceoff again until 2019 as UVU picked up the 5-2 victory on the road. The Wolverines first win against Utah since 2013.

In their latest matchup, the Utes took both games of the doubleheader in 2021 including a run rule victory in six innings. Sydney Sandez and Mariah Lopez picked up the wins in the circle as Haley Denning had a strong day at the plate going 4-7, driving in and scoring two runs and stealing two bases. 

How to Follow
Fans can tune into the game live as it will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Networks. Live stats will also be available for the game and fans can also keep up with live game action by following @Utah_Softball on Twitter.

For the Fans
The theme of the game is "Everything Utah" and fans are encouraged to wear their favorite Utah sports team jersey. Utah t-shirts will be the giveaway of the game and will be available at the Utah Athletics marketing table.
Scouting the Wolverines (11-13)

  • First year head coach and long-time former Utah assistant, Cody Thomson, has guided UVU to a 11-13 start and have been outscored by their opponents 123-163.
  • The Wolverines are batting a combined .318 with 213 hits, 29 doubles, two triples and 19 home runs.
  • Six batters own an average of .333 or higher, including two who are batting over .400 and rank in the top-5 of the WAC in that category.
  • Madison Carr leads UVU at the plate with a .420 batting average (2nd in the WAC), collecting a team leading 37 hits. She has also scored 20 runs, ranking second in the lineup. Kalena Shepherd joins Carr in the .400 club posting a .403 clip (4th in the WAC) with 29 hits, four home runs and leads the team in RBI (25, T-7th in WAC), doubles (6) and OPS (1.147).
  • Megan Gibbs has hit the most home runs totaling six on the year.
  • In the circle, the pitching staff has a combined ERA of 5.94, thrown 8 complete games and one shutout. They have collected 121 strikeouts in 154.1 innings of work.
  • Katie Zuniga owns the lowest ERA (5.08) with the most appearances and has thrown a team leading four complete games. Brooke Carter possesses the lowest WHIP (1.49), thrown three complete games and has struck out 72 batters (4th in the WAC) in 57.2 innings pitched. She also holds opponents to a .306 batting average.

Last Time Out
Utah played a home and away against Weber State over the weekend, splitting the two game set with the Wildcats. In the first game on Saturday at the Dumke Family Softball Field, Shi Smith was given the nod to start and dominated in the circle for Utah, throwing her third complete game of the season while striking out eight batters. Coming in clutch late, the Utes scored five runs in the sixth-inning that led to the victory.  

The Utes threatened early by way of a single by Haley Denning and immediately followed with Ellessa Bonstrom singling up the middle with both runners advancing on the throw to place Denning on third and Bonstrom on second. After a strikeout, Sophie Jacquez grounded out to second base to cross a run making the score, 1-0. 

Weber State scored their only run in the fifth off a solo home run to left field. The Utes would explode in the sixth inning as all nine batters would step up to the plate in the frame. Denning placed an exceptional bunt to leadoff and later swiped second base to record her 15th stolen base. Next, Bonstrom worked a full-count walk to place runners on first and second. Julia Jimenez followed by roping a double to right field that would score both runners, increasing Utah's lead to 3-1.
In the ensuing at-bat, Jimenez advanced to third on a passed ball and Jacquez extended the lead by singling up the middle to pick up her second RBI of the game to make the score 4-1. AJ Militello pinch-ran for Jacquez and would steal second base to record her seventh stolen bag of the season. After back-to-back strikeouts, Halle Morris would come up clutch with a single up the middle to score Militello, extending the lead to the eventual final score of 5-1. 

Game two took place in Ogden on Sunday and after doing some damage in the first scoring three runs to take the early lead, the Utah offense went cold. Lefty Mariah lopez started in the circle but her day wouldn't last long, being replaced by Sydney Sandez, after walking the first two batters she faced and giving up a three-run homer to tie the game. Two batters later, Sandez would give up the second homer of the inning. The Wildcats would then reach off an error by Julia Jimenez at third and a throwing error by Jimenez would plate another run to extend the Wildcat lead, 5-3. 

The game stayed relatively quite as a pitching duel commenced, only giving up a combined five hits up until the Wildcat frame of the sixth when they scored four runs on four hits, which included a pair of home runs. 

Utah's offense came back alive in their last at bats in the seventh. Aliya Belarde got it started with a double into center field followed by a Denning single to put runners on the corners. Bonstrom drew a walk to load the bases and Jacquez collected her second RBI of the day singling to right to bring in Belarde. Jordyn Gasper grounded into a fielder's choice to cross another run but a line out by the following batter would end the Utes' late inning come back effort. 

Team Stat Leaders (as of 03/28/22)

Batting Avg. Ellessa Bonstrom  .467
Slugging % Ellessa Bonstrom  .880
On Base % Ellessa Bonstrom  .587
Runs Scored Ellessa Bonstrom  27
Hits Haley Denning 37
RBI Bonstrom/Jimenez 30
Doubles Sophie Jacquez 11
Home Runs Ellessa Bonstrom  7
Stolen Bases Haley Denning  16
ERA Sydney Sandez 3.36 (88.1 IP)
K's  Sydney Sandez  70

National Rankings - Individual 

  • Ellessa Bonstrom ranks 23rd in slugging % nationally (.880). 
  • Bonstrom ranks 13th in batting average (.467) and second in the Pac-12 in that category.  
  • Bonstrom ranks 10th in on base % (.587), third in the Pac-12.
  • Bonstrom is 52nd in total bases with 66.  
  • Sophie Jacquez is T-12th in the country with 11 doubles and is second in the Pac-12. T-24th in the NCAA in doubles per game (0.39, 2nd in Pac-12).  
  • Teammate Katie Faulk and Bonstrom jumped into the national rankings T-16th with three sacrifice fly's (T-1st in the Pac-12).  
  • Denning is T-33rd in the country with 16 stolen bases (top of the Pac-12) and leads the conference in stolen bases per game (0.52).
  • Sandez has been spectacular in the circle ranking T-10th in the NCAA in strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.00) and is 3rd in walks allowed per seven innings (0.55). 2nd in the Pac-12 in that category.   
  • Sandez is T-21st in the NCAA with 5 shutouts, fourth among Pac-12 players.

National Rankings - Team

  • Utah is 12th in the nation with 65 stolen bases. 
  • 15th in the country in stolen bases per game (2.10) 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).  
  • Utah is top-50 with a single-game high of 16 hits vs. Sacramento State (2/19/22).
  • Ranks 14th in strikeout-to-walk ration (4.50). 
  • Tied for 37th 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's coming to an end at nine this past weekend. Sophie Jacquez currently owns the longest hitting streak at four games. 

Utah has six batters with six or more multiple hit games. Again, Dennning and Bonstrom are atop of the list with Denning totaling 13 and Bonstrom with 11. Julia Jimenez and Bonstrom pace the Utes in multi RBI performances (8) and each has posted one game where they colleceted five RBI. 

Denning is the team leader with 14 consecutive games of reaching base safely. Bonstrom and Jimenez follow with a streak of 13 and 11 earlier this season, respectively. Bonstrom has surpassed her longest of the year and is currently on a 13-game streak.   

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 three teams in the nation to have recorded a triple play, but the fashion that the Utes rolled the play is rare. George Washington University and North Carolina are the only other schools with a triple play this season. 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 April 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 388-361-1 record and sports a 585-443-1 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).