Softball Falls in Series Finale Against No. 13 ASU, 8-7
TEMPE, Ariz.- Utah softball (20-20, 4-8) fell to No. 13 Arizona State (31-5, 12-0) in the series finale on Saturday afternoon, 8-7. The Utes battled in similar fashion to game one, falling behind early but fighting back to tie and even take the lead. However, Utah couldn't keep the Sun Devils off the scoreboard as they completed the series sweep.
Shi Smith made her 14th start of the season and was replaced by Halle Morris in the first, after giving up a pair of home runs. Morris went 3.2 innings giving up five runs on five hits, three of which were earned, and was given the loss. Lefty Mariah Lopez relived Morris going 2.1 innings and kept ASU quite, not giving up a hit or run.
Aliya Belarde, Haley Denning and Elicia Espinosa each had a multi-hit performance as Ellessa Bonstrom and Belarde combined for four of the five team RBI.
The Utes move to 4-8 in conference play and are .500 overall with a 20-20 record.
Final: Sun Devils 8, Utes 7
Haley Denning extended her hitting streak to six games, starting the game with a single to second base. Jordyn Gasper followed making hard contact but lined out to the third baseman, who then made a heads-up play throwing over to first to double up Denning. Ellessa Bonstrom drew a walk but a ground out would follow to end the opening frame.
The top of the ASU lineup wasted no time to start their half of the inning, hitting two home runs to put them out in front 3-0. That ended the outing for Smith, who was replaced by Morris in the circle. Morris then walked the first batter she faced but started to find her command, fanning and flying out the next two batters. Aliya Belarde made a heads up play after bobbling a grounder in her direction, throwing home to get the lead runner and bring the Utes up to the dish.
Sophie Jacquez picked up Utah's second hit of the game to begin the second as Katie Faulk and Elicia Espinosa both reached on errors to load the bases. CC Cook entered as a pinch runner for Faulk and Aliya Belarde took care of the rest hitting one back to the pitcher and hustling down the line to beat the play and score Jacquez from third to cut into the ASU lead, 3-1.
Morris held the Sun Devils off the scoreboard in the second after giving up a walk and a single to center that put ASU in scoring position. But the Sun Devils would add one run off a solo homer in the third, extending the lead 4-0.
Utah's offense came alive in the fourth, exploding for four runs to tie the ball game at four apiece. Espinosa got it started with a single through the right side and back-to-back singles from Belarde and Denning loaded the bases for Gasper. Putting the ball in play, Gasper reached safely on an error by the ASU second baseman to score two runs and Denning never slowed down catching the Sun Devils off guard to score from first and tie the game. Continuing Utah's big inning was Bonstrom who smashed her 10th home run to right field, a two-run shot that pushed the Utes out in front for the first time, 6-4.
ASU immediately answered in their half of the fourth as defensive woes showed for the Utes, allowing the Sun Devils to score four runs on three hits and take the lead back, 8-6.
Going from the circle to the batter's box, Morris drew a leadoff walk as Militello entered as a pinch runner for her and moved over to second off a wild pitch. Espinosa found her second hit of the afternoon to push Militello over to third and Belarde once again drove in another run, this time lifting a sacrifice fly to center to bring the Utes within one.
Mariah Lopez relieved Morris of her efforts on the mound and kept the ASU bats quite for the next two innings, giving the Utes a chance in the seventh to try and extend the ball game. But Utah went down in order in their last at bats to end the contest.
The Utes will wrap up their four-game road trip on Tuesday, April 19, taking on the Weber State Wildcats in Ogden. The game is set to begin at 5 p.m. MT at the Wildcat Softball Field and can be seen on ESPN+.
Live results will also be available for the contest and fans can keep up with live game action and highlights by following @Utah_Softball on Twitter.