Utah Splits Doubleheader vs. No. 24 Arizona, Setting Up Sunday Rubber Game
SALT LAKE CITY – After a few rain delays that pushed back the start of game one almost three hours, Utah (22-21, 5-9) and Arizona (26-16, 5-12) finally got on the field as each picked up a win to set the stage for the rubber game on Sunday afternoon.
Shi Smith made her 16th start in the circle for the Utes in the opening game and after falling behind 2-0 early in the contest, Smith took control and gave up just four hits and a single run the rest of the game while tallying six strikeouts in the process to earn her seventh win.
Utah's offense came alive in the third and fourth innings, plating one run in each to tie the ball game as Julia Jimenez was the hero, picking up her first triple of the season to score three more runs and lift the Utes to a victory over the 24th-ranked Wildcats. Their first win against Arizona since 2017.
The second game of the day was all Wildcats as they shutout the Utes and held a no-hitter through five innings. Utah broke up the no-hitter opportunity in the sixth off a pinch-hit appearance from Elicia Espinosa. Jimenez found the second hit of the game and also her second extra-base hit of the day in the bottom of the seventh, but was left stranded as Arizona would take the second game and split the Saturday doubleheader.
Game 1 Final: Utes 5, Wildcats 3
Smith started the second consecutive game for the Utes on Saturday afternoon as the Wildcat offense struck quickly, scoring two runs on two hits which included a two-run homer that wrapped around the left field pole.
Down 2-0 early and being retired in order the first two innings, Utah didn't fret and found some life in the third as Destiny White picked up the first hit of the ball game for the Utes. CC Cook entered as a pinch runner for White and Katie Faulk followed, reaching safely off an error by the Wildcat second baseman that lead to Cook scoring all the way from first.
Smith worked around a leadoff single in the fourth, flying out the next three batters to bring the Utes up to the dish. The momentum from the inning prior spilled over into the Utah half of the fourth as Ellessa Bonstrom drew a walk and later swiped her 10th base of the year. Team leader in doubles, Sophie Jacquez, found her 12th double of the season to score Bonstrom and tie the ball game at two apiece.
Smith continued to be in command, sitting down the Wildcats in order and Aliya Belarde got the Utes in scoring position reaching on a fielder's choice and stealing her eighth base of the season. Jordyn Gasper and Bonstrom followed each drawing a walk to set up Jimenez to drive a triple down the right field line and collect three RBI. This was her first triple of the year and pushed the Utes out in front, 5-2.
Arizona added one run in the top of the seventh off of two hits, but Smith would respond with her sixth strikeout of the afternoon to seal the victory in game one of the doubleheader and tie Sandez with six complete games thrown this year.
Game 2 Final: Wildcats 8, Utes 0
It was all Wildcats in the second game as they shutout the Utes 8-0 on Saturday night. Similar to the first game, Arizona jumped out to an early lead scoring two runs in the first off of Sandez who was making her 15th start in the circle. Giving up four runs through three innings, Sandez was chased out of the game and Mariah Lopez replaced her in the circle.
Lopez held the Wildcat offense quiet during her 3.2 innings pitched, giving up just three hits and a single run while striking out three.
Being no-hit through five innings, the Utes broke up the opportunity in the sixth off a pinch-hit appearance from Espinosa. Belarde entered back into the game for Espinosa and advanced into scoring position off a beautifully laid bunt by Gasper. However, a groundout would follow and the Utes were held off the scoreboard.
Halle Morris moved from third and onto the mound to close the game in the seventh as the third Utah pitcher would make an attempt to slow down the Wildcats. Arizona would go on to score two more off three hits and extend their lead, 8-0.
Jimenez sparked some energy for the Utes with a leadoff double but couldn't be moved as the next three batters were sat down to end the game.
The Utes will take on the Wildcats in the rubber match tomorrow at Dumke Family Softball Field. The game is slated to begin at 12:05 p.m. MT and will be televised on Pac-12 Mountain.