Utes Set to Take on Red-Hot Sun Devils in Tempe Starting Thursday
SALT LAKE CITY- Utah softball (20-17, 4-5) travels to Tempe, Ariz., for the second time this season to take on the red-hot 13th-ranked ASU Sun Devils Thursday-Saturday, April 14-16, at Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium.
Thursday's game is slated to start at 8 p.m. MDT with the middle game set to begin at 7 p.m. MDT and first pitch for the series finale will be at 1 p.m. MDT on Saturday.
The Sun Devils have had the Utes' number over the last 10 matchups, winning nine including a pair of run rules back in 2019. Utah picked up the one win at home a season ago in the middle game to avoid the series sweep.
In Pac-12 play, Utah and ASU have faced off 27 times with the Sun Devils leading the series capturing 17 wins. From 2015-2017, the Utes won seven of nine games including taking back-to-back conference series with a five-game win streak.
In their latest meeting, Utah's late inning rally came up just short dropping the series clinching game, 3-1. Three Utah pitchers combined to try to hold ASU in check but the Sun Devils broke open a scoreless game with three runs over the fourth and fifth innings. Katie Faulk went 2-2 at the plate and drove in the Utes' only run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
How to Follow
All games can be seen through a live stream provided by ASU Athletics and live stats will also be available.
Fans can keep up with live game action and highlights by following @Utah_Softball on Twitter.
Scouting the Sun Devils (28-5, 9-0)
- ASU is scorching hot at the moment, currently on a 17-game win streak and is the only unbeaten team in the Pac-12.
- In conference play, the Sun Devils have swept two nationally ranked teams in Arizona and Oregon. Their third Pac-12 sweep came against Oregon State, who has recently climbed into the national rankings in three of the four major softball polls.
- Their last loss came back on March 5, being shutout against LMU at the Judi Garman Classic.
- The Sun Devil offense is potent, owning the best batting average in the Pac-12 (.337), scoring 234 runs (2nd in Pac-12) on just 277 hits and have hit a conference leading 64 home runs.
- ASU also sits atop of the Pac-12 in slugging % (.650), on base % (.437) and RBI (224).
- The Sun Devils are led at the plate by Yannira Acuna who is batting .465 (1st in Pac-12) on the season with a team leading 40 hits, 12 doubles (2nd in Pac-12) and a .942 slugging % (2nd in Pac-12).
- Coming off a sweep against No. 14 Oregon on the road, outfielder Jazmine Hill was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week. Hill finished the weekend with three home runs and seven RBI. She hit her first two-home run game of her career on Saturday and followed that performance up with her first career grand slam on Sunday.
- The Sun Devil pitching staff combines for a 2.04 ERA, 12 complete games, 10 shutouts and 199 strikeouts. They have held the opponent bats to a .214 batting average.
- Marissa Schuld heads the ASU arms with a 1.31 ERA in 64.0 innings pitched and 81 strikeouts. She's gone the distance in four of her nine starts and has given up the least amount of hits (39, 3rd in Pac-12) runs (14, 2nd in Pac-12) and walks (4, T-1st in Pac-12) on the team.
Last Time Out
The Utes were back at Dumke Family Softball Stadium over the weekend, hosting the California Golden Bears who made their return to Salt Lake City for the first time since 2019. After dropping the opening game on Friday in extra innings, the Utes bounced back taking the next two and picked up their first conference series win of the season and their first since 2019, when they took two of three against Oregon.
On Friday, Shi Smith made her 12th start and looked strong through four innings only allowing one run in the third. Smith was pulled in the fifth after giving up a walk, a two-run home run, double and single to leave traffic on the bases for Sydney Sandez.
At the plate, Utah saw their fourth best hitting performance posting 14 hits in the game. Six Utes had a multi-hit performance and Jordyn Gasper lead the team with her second three RBI game of the season.
In the field, the Ute defense committed two errors in the eighth inning that lead to two unearned runs to score. This put the Bears on top late in the game and ultimately was enough for them to capture the win.
In the middle game, 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 her career-high in strikeouts with seven.
The Utes 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 and helped push Utah past Cal to even the series up.
The Sunday rubber match didn't start as well as Smith and the Utes would've liked with Cal hitting back-to-back home runs and taking the early 4-0 lead. Senior Sydney Sandez headed the comeback charge replacing Smith in the circle at the start of the second inning, throwing 6.0 innings giving up just five hits and striking out five bears to earn her second win of the weekend.
Sophie Jacquez made her presence known in right field, making an incredible full layout diving catch and quickly popping up to get the runner at first for the double play. Utah pulled within one in their half of the fourth as Jacquez turned her defense into offense, hitting a deep triple off the right center wall. She would then come across to score on a passed ball.
The Utes tied the game up in the fifth off a throwing error by the Cal catcher in an attempt to throw out Gasper taking second, allowing pinch runner AJ Militello to score. Destiny White pinch hit for Kendall Lundberg and came up huge with a single up the middle to score Gasper and put Utah on top for the first time.
Katie Faulk lead the Utes at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI, one run scored and hit her fourth home run of the year to extend the lead 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth. Sandez collected her fifth and final strikeout of the outing in the top frame of the seventh, putting the game away with a lineout to Jimenez.
Team Stat Leaders (as of 4/12/22)
|Batting Avg.||Ellessa Bonstrom||.452|
|Slugging %||Ellessa Bonstrom||.828|
|On Base %||Ellessa Bonstrom||.567|
|Runs Scored||Haley Denning||32|
|Home Runs||Ellessa Bonstrom||8|
|Stolen Bases||Haley Denning||17|
|ERA||Sydney Sandez||2.20 (108.0 IP)|
Pac-12 Conference Individual Rankings (as of 4/12/22)
- Bonstrom is 2nd in batting average (.452) and is 6th in slugging % (.828).
- Bonstrom is tied 4th in walks (22) and is 4th with eight hit by pitch.
- Bonstrom sits in 2nd in on base % (.567) and is T-9th with nine doubles.
- Bonstrom is 9th in total bases (77).
- Bonstrom leads the conference in sacrifice flies with 4 and Faulk is T-2nd with 3.
- Jimenez is 4th with 37 RBI and Bonstrom sits in 9th with 33.
- Jacquez is in a tie for 3rd with 11 doubles and is two shy of sharing the top spot.
- Denning leads the conference in stolen bases with 17 and Militello, Gasper and Bonstrom are T-5th, each with nine.
- Denning has the most steal attempts with 20. Bonstrom is tied for 5th with 11.
- Denning and Belarde are T-2nd in sacrifice bunts (6).
- Denning is T-4th in hits with 48.
- Sandez is 3rd with 31 batters struck out looking and is 5th in walks allowed with 9.
- Sandez is 9th with 88 strikeouts.
- Sandez is T-1st in appearances (25) and is 4th with 108.0 innings pitched.
- Sandez is T-7th in games finished in the circle (8).
- Sandez is T-3rd (12) and Morris is T-6th (11) in games in relief.
- Lopez ranks T-5th in hits allowed giving up 44 and is T-5th with only five doubles allowed.
- Lopez is 9th in walks allowed with 16.
- Jimenez is 4th in assists with 82. Belarde ranks 7th with 68.
- Belarde is T-1st in fielding double plays (10) and Jimenez is 8th fielding six DP's.
Pac-12 Conference Team Rankings (as of 4/12/22)
- Utah leads the conference in stolen bases with 71 and stolen bases per game (1.92).
- Have converted 71 of 84 steal attempts.
- 2nd in sacrifice bunts (20).
- Tied for 2nd with ASU in sacrifice flies (12) and just one behind Oregon for the top spot.
- 4th in hits (306) and 5th in batting average (.311).
- 6th in walks (82) and 4th with 25 hit by pitch.
- 5th in on base % (.377).
- One of the toughest teams to strikeout at the plate with the second lowest total of strikeouts as a team (140).
- 5th in batters struck out (211) and 4th in walks allowed (51).
- 2nd fewest total of wild pitches in the Pac-12 (5).
- 4th in fielding assists (285).
- 3rd in putouts (728).
- T-2nd with Oregon in fielding double plays (11).
Pac-12 Conference Team Game Highs (as of 4/12/22)
- The Utes own the most sacrifice hits in a game with 4 in their matchup against Missouri State on 2/11/22.
- Tied with three other conference foes with 3 sacrifice flies, took place in their game against Sacramento State on 2/29/22.
- Utah and Oregon have each recorded a game with nine stolen bases. Utah's coming against Cal Baptist on 2/13/22.
- Utah and California's opening game on Friday, April 8,
National Rankings - Individual (as of 04/11/22)
- Bonstrom ranks 33rd in slugging % nationally (.828).
- Bonstrom ranks 18th in batting average (.567).
- Bonstrom ranks 10th in on base % (.591).
- Bonstrom is 53rd in total bases with 74.
- Bonstrom climbed the national rankings and is now 8th in sacrifice flies with four.
- Jimenez is 60th in RBI per game (0.97).
- Jacquez is 53rd in the NCAA in doubles per game (0.32).
- Jacquez Jimenez has become one of the toughest to strikeout in the NCAA, both ranked in the top-50. Jacquez is 25th and Jimenez is 50th.
- Denning ranks 34th nationally in hits (48).
- Denning is 63rd in sacrifice bunts per game with 0.18.
- Denning is 51st in the country with 17 stolen bases.
- Sandez has been spectacular in the circle ranking 5th in the NCAA in strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.78) and is 3rd in walks allowed per seven innings (0.58).
National Rankings – Team (as of 04/11/22)
- Utah is 20th in the nation with 71 stolen bases.
- 23rd in the country in stolen bases per game (1.92).
- Top-35 (32nd) in country in batting average (.311).
- T-7th 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 17 hits vs. Stanford (4/2/22).
- Ranks 17th in strikeout-to-walk ration (4.14).
- Top-60 (56th) in shut outs with seven.
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 a new one at eight-games. Denning and Jimenez are each on a three-game streak of their own.
Utah has six batters with six or more multiple hit games. Dennning is atop the list totaling 16 with Bonstrom and Jimenez each with 12 Jimenez and Bonstrom pace the Utes in multi RBI performances with 10 and nine, respectively. Both have posted one game where they've collected five RBI.
Bonstrom is the team leader with 19 consecutive games of reaching base safely. Denning and Jimenez follow with a streak of 14 and 11 earlier this season, respectively.
The Utah pitching staff has thrown seven shutouts this season, four of them belonging to Sydney Sandez. Sandez's shutouts have come against Missouri State (4-0), San Diego (5-0), UC Davis (8-0) and Seattle University (9-0). Sandez and freshman Hailey Harries combined for one against Sacramento State (13-0).
The other two 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.
The Utah offense came out firing in six games this year to put the other team away in run-rule fashion. The latest happening this previous weekend on the Farm against Stanford in an offensive explosion by the Utes, collecting the most hits this season (17) and since 2019 to give them the 11-2 win in five innings.
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 fourth and fifth 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.
Pac-12's Most Wanted
Utah has established themselves as the most dangerous team on the base paths in the conference, tallying 71 stolen bases. The Utes have four players with at least nine steals on the season (Denning, Bonstrom, Militello & Gasper). In comparison, the rest of the Pac-12 has just nine players with at least nine steals.
Haley Denning paces the conference with 17 steals in 20 attempts. Bonstrom, Gasper and Militello follow in a tie for fifth, each with nine stolen bases. Gasper is one of two players in the Pac-12 that has at least eight steals without being caught.
The Utes posted their highest hit count of the season and since 2019 on Saturday against Stanford, finding 17 hits in the 11-2 run rule victory. This topping the previous of 16 back on 2/19/22 against Sacramento State and the most since March of 2019 at Arizona State when the Utes put up 18 on the Sun Devils.
Four Utah batters recorded a multi-hit game as all but two who had an at bat earned a hit. The Utes were led by Haley Denning (3-for-4, 3 runs score, 1 RBI), Jordyn Gasper (3-for-4, 2 runs scored, 2 RBI) and Julia Jimenez (3-for-3, 2 runs scored, 3 RBI and 1 HR). For Denning, this was her third 3-hit game of the season and 12th of her career while Gasper posted her second 3-hit performance of the year, second of her career. As for Jimenez, she entered into new territory recording her first 3-hit performance of the season and just the second of her career.
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 391-364-1 record and sports a 588-446-1 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.
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.