Utah Defeats No. 9 Washington on Friday, 5-2
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah softball (25-24, 7-12) defeated Washington (33-12, 12-7) for the first time since 2019 behind a masterful outing in the circle by Mariah Lopez on Friday evening, 5-2. This snapped a four-game losing streak to the Huskies and gave the Utes their 25th win of the season.
"That was a really big win for us and it took a bunch of little things," head coach Amy Hogue said. "A walk, a couple sacrifices, a timely hit. Those types of things, they all added up to big things and I'm super proud of this group."
Lopez made her 15th start for the Utes and besides a two-run home run in the sixth, Lopez held the Washington offense to just three hits while striking out four in her fifth complete game of the year. Lopez is now 6-5 this season.
"Mariah was incredible and she did everything to put us in a position to win. She's done that a lot for us and we haven't been able to find a way to win games for her," Hogue said. "So, I am especially happy for the fact that this win goes next to her name. She deserved it most."
Haley Denning and Julia Jimenez led the Utes at the plate, each picking up a pair of hits as Ellessa Bonstrom had her 12th multi-RBI performance of the season driving in three of Utah's five runs. Halle Morris was the only other Ute to find a hit in the ball game, roping a shot into the left center gap for her fourth double of the year.
The win puts Utah above .500 at 25-24 and moves them to a 7-12 mark in Pac-12 play.
Final: Utes 5, Washington 2
Lefty Lopez stepped into the circle to start the game for the Utes and aside from a throwing error by Denning, made quick work of the Huskies in the opening frame to bring the top of the Utah lineup to the plate.
Aliya Belarde put the Utes aboard drawing a six-pitch walk as Denning followed with a bunt single and an error by the Washington first basemen allowed Belarde to advance to third. Denning wasted no time stealing on the first pitch to pick up her 19th bag of the season and Bonstrom got the job done at the plate, lifting a sacrifice fly into right field to score Belarde and put Utah on top. A fielder's choice followed and everyone was safe as the Huskies attempted to catch Denning advancing to third. Utah scored their final run of the inning from a Jordyn Gasper sacrifice bunt that plated Denning from third and pushed Jimenez to second. Jimenez would then be caught stealing to end the first inning.
Both teams were sat down in order in the second and Washington found their first hit of the game in the top of the third from a leadoff single up the middle. Lopez was able to work around the single, collecting back-to-back strikeouts before a fielder's choice would put runners on first and second. Lopez continued to hold her composure and flew out the ensuing batter to leave a pair of Huskies on the base paths.
The Utes were retired in order again in the third and Lopez stayed in command with her second 1-2-3 inning of the game in the top half of the fourth. Jimenez leadoff with a single up the middle in the Utah half of the inning and the second Gasper sacrifice bunt of the game pushed pinch runner, AJ Militello, to second with one away. However, the Utes were unable to convert with a pop out and strikeout ensuing.
Lopez continued her dominance sitting down her fourth, fifth and sixth batters in a row as the Utes saw a big inning in the bottom of the fifth, scoring three runs off three hits to extend the lead 5-0. Katie Faulk started the frame getting hit by a pitch and a ground out by Belarde moved pinch runner CC Cook into scoring position. Denning found her second hit of the game to advance Cook to third and swiped her second bag to put runners on the pond. Bonstrom then ripped a single through the right side to score two as Jimenez followed with a loud double over the right fielder's head to score Bonstrom and a throwing error by the right fielder would put Jimenez safely on third. Gasper hit one in the air but flied out to left to end the inning.
Washington responded with a pair of runs in the sixth off a two-run homer to left. Lopez started the inning strong, striking out the first two batters, but gave up the second hit of the game up the middle with two outs. The following batter then hit the lone home run of the game to cut into the Utah lead as a foul out would put an end to the Washington sixth.
Utah left a runner on base after Morris drove one to the wall in left center for the stand-up leadoff double. Lopez entered the circle in the top of the seventh looking to seal the win and did just that, allowing one hit with two away and bounced back to catch a ball that was hit right back to her to end the game.
Utah will be back on the diamond tomorrow afternoon for the second game of the series against the Washington Huskies. First pitch is slated to be thrown at 2:05pm MT and the game can be seen via livestream provided by Utah Athletics.
Live stats will also be available for the games and fans can keep up with live game action by following @Utah_Softball on Twitter.