Utes Take on No. 3 UCLA in Sunny Southern California This Weekend
SALT LAKE CITY- Utah softball (23-22, 5-10) heads back to sunny southern California for a series against the third-ranked UCLA Bruins (37-5, 13-2) starting on Friday, April 29, at Easton Stadium. Game-time is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT on Friday with the second game slated to start at 7 p.m. MT on Saturday, April 30, and the series finale will begin at 1 p.m. MT on Sunday, May 1.
Since joining the conference of champions, the Utes are 5-21 when going up against UCLA in conference play. Utah's last win was back in 2017 when the Utes picked up their first conference series win over the Bruins in a sweep on the road. Since then, the Utes have dropped the last 11 matchups against UCLA.
How to Follow
The first and third game of the series can be seen via live stream provided by UCLA Athletics. The middle game will be aired on Pac-12 Insider.
Fans can keep up with live game action and highlights by following @Utah_Softball on Twitter.
Scouting the Bruins (37-5, 13-2)
- One of the top teams in the nation, the third-ranked UCLA Bruins are fresh off a mercy rule victory against Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday and own a 37-5 overall record.
- The Bruins have been dominant in conference play, sporting a 13-2 record and opened up Pac-12 play with three straight sweeps against No. 25 Arizona, No. 10 Washington and No. 22 Oregon. They dropped their first series on the road at No. 24 Stanford, but bounced back with another conference sweep over Oregon State.
- UCLA shares the top spot in the Pac-12 Conference with No. 14 Arizona State.
- At the plate, the Bruins are one of the top producing offenses in the league with a combined batting average of .319 (3rd in Pac-12) with 337 hits (6th in Pac-12), 280 runs scored (3rd in Pac-12), 66 doubles (3rd in Pac-12), 12 triples (2nd in Pac-12), 46 home runs and have tallied 249 RBI (T-3rd in Pac-12).
- The Bruins also rank fourth in slugging % (.535) and on-base % (.399).
- Like the Utes, the Bruins don't shy away from some small ball having dropped 23 sacrifice bunts to rank second right behind Utah in the conference. You also need to look out for them on the base paths as they rank third in the Pac-12 with 51 on the year.
- The UCLA lineup features six batters that all own averages above .300 and are led at the dish by Briana Perez. Perez leads the team in average (.392), hits (49), runs scored (36), triples (6) and slugging % (.760). Her six triples lead the Pac-12 and she also ranks top-10 in stolen bases, batting average, and slugging %.
- Delanie Wisz and Maya Brady have hit the most home runs in the lineup, each with 10.
- The UCLA pitching staff is the best in the Pac-12, ranking in the top-two in almost all statistical categories. The staff combines for a Pac-12 leading ERA of 1.27 with 366 strikeouts (2nd, 96 struck out looking), 59 runs allowed (1st), nine saves (1st), holding opponents to a .166 batting average (1st) and has allowed just 158 hits (1st).
- The Bruins are mostly led by Megan Faraimo and Holly Azevedo in the circle. Faraimo is 16-1 on the season with a 1.44 ERA, 11 complete games, three shutouts, five saves and has given up just 78 hits and 32 runs in 135.2 innings pitched. She leads the conference in strikeouts (220), opposing batting average (.163) and strikeouts looking (54).
- In 80.2 innings pitched, Azevedo is 15-2 with an ERA of 1.30, four complete games, two shutouts, 108 strikeouts and holds opponents to a .169 average.
Last Time Out
The Utes were back at home over the weekend, hosting the No. 25 Arizona Wildcats for a three-game series and a Monday matchup against Utah Valley University. Utah dropped the series against Arizona but picked up a win in the opening game, their first win over the Wildcats since 2017.
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 Wildcats.
Falling in the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday, a seventh inning two-out rally fell just short as Utah was defeated by Arizona in the rubber game on Sunday, 6-5.
Smith made her second start of the series in the circle 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. 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 give her the fourth and final Ute RBI of the game. 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.
After dropping two straight, the Utes bounced back against UVU with a 4-2 victory on Monday. Eight Ute batters collected a hit on the evening while Jimenez and White powered the comeback, each blasting a two-run homer to push the Utes past the Wolverines. This was the ninth homer run for Jimenez and the third for White.
Lopez made her 13th start in the circle, throwing 4.0 innings, giving up two runs on six hits while striking out three batters. Smith replaced Lopez in the fifth and was dominate in the last two innings, striking out the side in the sixth and picking up two more in the seventh with a ground out to seal the victory and earn her eighth win of the year.
Team Stat Leaders (as of 4/28/22)
|Batting Avg.||Ellessa Bonstrom||.412|
|Slugging %||Ellessa Bonstrom||.781|
|On Base %||Ellessa Bonstrom||.539|
|Runs Scored||Ellessa Bonstrom||38|
|Home Runs||Ellessa Bonstrom||10|
|Stolen Bases||Haley Denning||18|
|ERA||Sydney Sandez||2.73 (113.0 IP)|
Pac-12 Conference Individual Rankings (as of 4/25/22)
- Bonstrom is 6th in both batting average and slugging %.
- Bonstrom is tied 1st in walks (28) and is 5th with eight hit by pitch.
- Bonstrom sits in 3rd in on base %.
- Bonstrom is T-8th in total bases (89).
- Bonstrom leads the conference in sacrifice flies with 4 and Faulk is T-2nd with 3.
- Jimenez is T-3rd with 47 RBI and Bonstrom is 8th with 38 RBI.
- Jacquez is T-4th with 12 doubles and is one shy of sharing the top spot.
- Denning leads the conference in stolen bases with 18 and Bonstrom is T-5th with 10. Militello and Gasper are T-9th, each with nine swipes.
- Denning has the most steal attempts with 21. Bonstrom is tied for 7th with 12.
- Belarde is T-2nd in sacrifice bunts with seven and Denning is 5th with six.
- Denning is 6th in hits.
- Sandez is 6th with 32 batters struck out looking and is 5th in walks allowed with 11.
- Sandez is T-3rd in appearances (27) and is 6th with 113.0 innings pitched.
- Sandez is T-9th in games finished in the circle (8).
- Morris is 3rd (15) in games in relief and Sandez is T-6th with 12.
- Lopez is T-7th with only seven doubles allowed.
- Jimenez is 5th in assists with 92. Belarde ranks 8th with 78.
- Belarde is 3rd in fielding double plays (11).
Pac-12 Conference Team Rankings (as of 4/25/22)
- Utah leads the conference in stolen bases with 76 and 2nd stolen bases per game (1.69).
- Have converted 76 of 92 steal attempts.
- Leads the conference in sacrifice bunts (24).
- Tied for 3rd with Washington in sacrifice flies (13) and just one behind ASU and Oregon for the top spot.
- 4th in hits (336) and 5th in batting average (.301).
- T-5th in triples with seven.
- 6th in walks (110) and 4th with 27 hit by pitch.
- 7th in on base % (.369).
- The toughest team to strikeout at the with lowest total of strikeouts as a team (158).
- The only team in the Pac-12 to have avoided grounding into double plays, hitting into just two on the season.
- 5th in batters struck out (254) and batters struck out looking (69).
- 5th in walks allowed (64).
- 1st in the Pac-12 with the fewest total of wild pitches in the Pac-12 (6).
- 6th in fielding % (.965).
- 3rd in fielding assists (340).
- 3rd in putouts (886).
- T-4th with ASU in fielding double plays (12).
Pac-12 Conference Team Game Highs (as of 4/25/22)
- 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, saw the most at bats (72), hits (29) and doubles (6) between both teams in a game this year.
National Rankings - Individual (as of 04/27/22)
- Bonstrom ranks 41st in slugging % nationally (.781).
- Bonstrom ranks 44th in batting average (.412).
- Bonstrom ranks 19th in on base % (.539).
- Bonstrom is 91st in total bases with 91.
- Bonstrom has climbed the national rankings and is now 19th in sacrifice flies with four. Faulk ranks 68th with three.
- Jimenez is 44th in RBI per game (1.02).
- Jacquez is 97th in the NCAA in doubles per game (0.29).
- Jacquez and Jimenez have become one of the toughest to strikeout in the NCAA, both ranked in the top-25. Jacquez is 12th and Jimenez is 24th.
- Denning is 72nd in the country with 18 stolen bases.
- Belarde is 74th in the NCAA in sacrifice bunts per game (0.16).
- Sandez has been spectacular in the circle ranking 8th in the NCAA in strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.18) and is 6th in walks allowed per seven innings (0.68).
National Rankings – Team (as of 04/27/22)
- Utah is 27th in the nation with 76 stolen bases.
- 29th in the country in stolen bases per game (1.69).
- Top-45 (43rd) in the country in batting average (.301).
- 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 32nd in strikeout-to-walk ration (3.48).
- 85th in shut outs with seven.
Five Utes have strung together a hitting streak of six or more this season. Bonstrom owns the longest at 11-games and Denning follows with the second longest at nine. Denning is currently on a seven-game streak of her own.
Utah has six batters with 10 or more multiple hit games. Denning is atop the list totaling 17 as Jimenez follows with 13 and Bonstrom with 12. Jimenez paces the Utes in multi-RBI performances with 13 and Bonstrom is right behind with 11. Both have posted one game where they've collected five RBI.
Bonstrom owns the longest reached base streak with 24 consecutive games this season. Denning and Jimenez follow with a streak of 14 and 11 which took place earlier this season, respectively. Denning currently has the longest at seven games as Jimenez and Destiny White follow each on a six-game streak.
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 76 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 13 players with at least nine steals.
Haley Denning paces the conference with 18 steals in 21 attempts. Bonstrom follows in T-5th with 10 swipes while Gasper and Militello are in a tie for sixth, 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 394-369-1 record and sports a 591-451-1 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.