Softball Cruises Past Cal on Saturday, 8-2
SALT LAKE CITY - The Utes jumped out to another early lead against California on Saturday afternoon, similar to Friday's series opener. Utah led for all seven innings behind a three-run first that proved to be the only runs necessary to earn the victory and even up the series.
Sydney Sandez made her 13th start of the year and recorded her team-leading sixth complete game. Sandez shined in the circle only allowing one earned run while tying a career-high in strikeouts with seven.
Utah struck early and struck often with Haley Denning and Julia Jimenez leading the way for Utah at the plate, as eight Utes crossed in the contest. Denning went 4-4 with three singles and a triple, the most since she recorded four hits against Oregon State on 5/14/2021. Jimenez tallied her sixth home run of the season with a two-run moonshot to left field that contributed to her three-RBI game.
Utah adds another win to its Pac-12 record (3-5) and moves to 19-17 overall, looking to take the series tomorrow afternoon.
Final: Utes 8, Bears 2
Sydney Sandez started the game off in a positive way for Utah with an eight-pitch strikeout, the first of many to come. Following a single, Katie Faulk threw out a Bear trying to steal second for her fifth of the season.
Utah would send eight batters to the plate in the bottom half of the first, starting with a Denning infield single. Ellessa Bonstrom would follow and work a four-pitch walk with Jimenez pushing a single into right field in the ensuing at-bat, scoring Denning and sending Bonstrom to third to give Utah a 1-0 lead. After a strikeout, Sophie Jacquez reached on an error to shortstop that scored Bonstrom and placed Jimenez on second to make it 2-0. With two outs, Halle Morris sent a routine ground ball to second base but an error would cost the Bears a run and advance Jacquez to third, stretching the lead to 3-0. With runners on the corners, Utah was unable to score any additional runs.
Cal looked to threaten in the top of the second after a leadoff single, but Sandez would respond by striking out the next two batters and retired the side with a groundout.
In the bottom frame, Denning sent a bullet line drive into the right-center field gap to record her second triple of the season and scored on an error relaying the ball back into the infield to increase Utah's lead to 4-0. Bonstrom followed with a single to extend her hitting streak to seven consecutive games, however, she would not advance after a double play.
The Bears threatened in the third inning with a one-out triple. Sandez would retire the next two batters, one of them with her fourth strikeout of the ball game. The Utes also threatened in their half of the inning with a single from Jordyn Gasper and a walk from Jacquez, but was unable to make anything of it.
To start the fifth inning, a costly error in center field would lead to Cal plating a run to cut the lead to 4-1. Responding immediately, Jimenez would crush a home run to left field and get the run back to make it a 5-1 game. Following a walk by Gasper, Jacquez reached on an error and would be replaced by AJ Militello as pinch-runner. Another walk issued by Cal and earned by Kendall Lundberg loaded the bases for Morris as she would hit a ground ball to third that would get the force out at home but another Cal error on the throw to first scored Militello from second to increase the lead to 6-2.
Utah continued to apply pressure to Cal's pitching as Aliya Belarde began the bottom of the sixth inning with a double and Denning followed with a single to place runners on the corners. Doing what she does best, Denning recorded her 17th stolen base of the season while swiping second. In the ensuing at-bat, Bonstorm lifted a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Belarde and advanced Denning to third who later scored on a groundout by Jimenez.
Cal would string a couple of hits together in the top of the seventh inning and scored a run to close the gap to 8-2, but it wasn't enough as Sandez slammed the door with a foul out to end the game.
Leveling the series this afternoon, Utah will face off against Cal in the rubber match tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is set for 12:05pm MT at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium and can be seen on the Pac-12 Mountain channel.