Utes Downed by Huskies in Series Finale, 5-1
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah softball (26-25, 8-13) fell to No. 9 Washington (34-13, 13-8) in the series finale on Sunday, 5-1. The Utes scored just one run off six hits, leaving nine runners stranded on the base paths. Halle Morris scored the lone run for the Utes, blasting a solo homer to left that tied the game in the second inning.
Southpaw Mariah Lopez made her 16th start of the year and lasted just 2.0 innings giving up one run on three hits, walking two and striking out one. Shi Smith replaced her in the circle and despite taking the loss, had a strong outing going 3.2 innings allowing two runs, four hits and striking out five. Sydney Sandez was the final Ute pitcher to make an appearance on the day, giving up two runs, two hits and walking one batter in her 1.1 innings pitched.
The other five Utes who recorded a hit on the afternoon include Aliya Belarde, Haley Denning, Julia Jimenez, Elicia Espinosa and Katie Faulk.
Utah is now 26-25 overall and 8-13 in Pac-12 play.
Final: Huskies 5, Utes 1
Washington got off to a quick start in the opening frame, scoring one run off two hits. Lopez stepped into the circle and after flying out the first batter, gave up a single and double that scored the runner on first. Lopez bounced back with her first strikeout of the day and a grounded out the following hitter to leave a runner stranded.
Belarde led off the bottom of the first with a walk and after the next two batters were retired, moved into scoring position on third from a single by Jimenez. A line out to left field followed to shut the door on the Utes.
Lopez walked her first batter in the second inning and after picking up the second out, ultimately set up Faulk to throw out her 12th runner of the season for the final out. A new single season high for Faulk.
Utah tied the ball game in their half of the second, scoring a run off two hits. Morris led off the inning barreling up her third home run of the season deep over the left field fence. Two batters later, Faulk hit a single through the right side for the second hit of the inning. CC Cook entered as a pinch runner and was moved into scoring position, but the Utes couldn't push her across as a strikeout ended the opportunity.
Lopez started the third giving up a leadoff double and hit the next batter, ending her day as Smith took over in the circle. Entering in a tough spot, Smith picked up the first out but got into a bases loaded jam after a fielder's choice and walk ensued. Smith responded, fanning the next batter to keep the Huskies off the scoreboard.
Utah was sat down in order in the bottom of the third and Smith struck out the side in the top of the fourth, bringing her strikeout total to four on the afternoon. Other than a walk with two away, the Utes wouldn't find a hit for the second consecutive inning.
The Huskies added two more in the fifth off a two-run homer to straight away center field. A double followed but Smith minimized the damage sitting down the next three batters. Belarde and Denning hit back-to-back singles putting them on first and second with just one out. Bonstrom followed lining out to the short stop and Jimenez flew out to deep center field as the Husky defender went back to the track and leaped to make the catch against the wall.
After securing the first two outs of the sixth, Smith was replaced by Sandez after allowing a bunt single. Sandez went back and forth against her first batter and won the battle on the eighth pitch, issuing a ground out to Belarde that she handled with ease.
Down to their final six outs, Morris drew a four pitch walk and Espinosa hit a rocket past second to move pinch runner AJ Militello into scoring position. A pair of strikeouts followed leaving another two Utes stranded on the base paths.
Washington plated two more runs in the top of the seventh off of two hits to extend the lead, 5-1. The Utes put one aboard with a leadoff walk to start their last at bats, but a fielder's choice, strikeout and ground out ended the game.
Utah softball will hit the road for their final conference series next week, facing off against Oregon State at Kelly Field. The three-game set will take place May 12-14, and will start on Thursday at 7 p.m. MT. The series will wrap on Saturday at 12 p.m. MT.