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Late Inning Heroics Fall Just Short, Utah Downed by No. 24 Arizona on Sunday

Apr 24, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY – A seventh inning two-out rally fell just short as Utah (22-22, 5-10) was defeated by No. 24 Arizona (27-16, 6-12) in the rubber game on Sunday, 6-5.

Shi Smith was given the ball in the circle for the Utes and took the loss after going 3.2 innings giving up five runs on four hits, walking five batters and collecting four strikeouts. Mariah Lopez took over for Smith and had a strong outing, throwing 3.1 innings allowing just one run on six hits and picked up one strikeout.

Halle Morris and Destiny White led the lineup at the plate, each going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Julia Jimenez had the loudest hit of the game, crushing a deep solo home run to left to tie the game 1-1 in the first inning, her eighth homer of the year. Katie Faulk found her 18th hit of the season at the perfect time, driving a single to the left center gap that would pull the Utes within one and giver her the fourth and final Ute RBI of the game.

"JuJu [Jimenez] was a highlight for me this weekend. Stepping in for Denning, she played really well at shortstop and is just a joy to watch in the batter's box. She competes not just physically, but with her focus on the details of the game plan," head coach Amy Hogue said. "I was also super proud of our players that came off the bench for us today. From Mariah to Kenny [Kendall Lundberg] to Laylo [Leilani Melendez], they all did fantastic and helped give us chances to win the series."

Final: Wildcats 6, Utes 5
Smith got the starting nod for the series finale on Sunday afternoon and got into a jam in the first inning as she walked the first batter and a throwing error by catcher Faulk would allow the runner to advance to third. Smith picked up her second strikeout of the inning shortly after but back-to-back walks would load the bases with two outs. Staying composed, Smith ended the busy inning with a fly out to left field.

The Utes responded in their half of the first as Jimenez, in a 0-2 count with two outs, crushed a solo home run deep to left to tie the ball game at one apiece.
Both lineups were retired in order during the second as Smith tallied her third strikeout of the afternoon. The Wildcats threatened in the third off a two-out double and single that would put runners on second and third. Smith quickly shut the door on the opportunity, locking up the following batter to strike her out looking.

But the Wildcats would get back to work in the fourth, scoring four runs off three hits which included a grand slam that would chase Smith out of the game. Lopez entered the circle and gave up a double to right field but would end the inning issuing a grounder to second.

Utah pulled within two in the bottom half of the fourth, plating two runs off two hits. Ellessa Bonstrom led off with her 10th double of the season and a walk and error by Arizona would load the bases with no outs. Morris stepped into the box and hit a hard-hit ball that was tracking for the right-side gap, but Jacquez couldn't quite get out of the balls path and was hit for the interference and the first out of the frame. Elicia Espinosa reached on a fielder's choice that would score Bonstrom from third and some trickery on the base paths would score Jimenez from third as pinch runner MK Gomez initiated a run down between first and second.

The Utes threatened again in the fifth as White singled up the middle to start the inning. CC Cook pinch ran for White and was pushed to second off a sacrifice bunt by Faulk. A wild pitch followed, allowing Cook to move over to third but Utah was unable to convert as Cook was put out at home and Shelbi Ortiz was caught stealing.

Lopez gave up her single run in the seventh off a lead off home run that would extend the Wildcat lead, 6-3. In their last chance at bats, Morris collected her second hit of the game and a ground out to second would move Morris into scoring position. White would then come up huge in her at bat, shooting a double into right center that would score Morris and cut into the Arizona lead, 6-4. Ensuing batter, Faulk, found her first hit of the game to score White and pick up the RBI. Leilani Melendez entered as a pinch hitter for Ortiz and would single into right to move Faulk into scoring position. Jordyn Gasper, who's had some clutch plate appearances this season, stepped up to the plate with the crowd at Dumke stadium on their feet. However, Gasper would ground back to the pitcher for the final out of the ball game.  

"We used everyone available today to give us a chance to win and fell just short once again. It's gut wrenching but there's no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We get to play again tomorrow and go after another win," Hogue said.  

UP Next
The Utes will be back at home tomorrow to take on the Utah Valley Wolverines. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m. MT at Dumke Family Softball Stadium and can be seen via live stream provided by Utah Athletics.

Live scoring will also be available and fans can keep up with live game action and highlights by following @Utah_Softball on Twitter.

Follow the Utes
For fans of the Utah softball program, follow the Utes on Twitter (@Utah_Softball), Instagram (@utahsoftball) and Facebook (@utesoftball).