Softball: Utes finish weekend 3-3 at the Kajikawa Classic

softball Emily Juchau

The Utah softball team went 3-3 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. over the long weekend.

“It was a good first weekend,” said freshman pitcher Katie Donovan. “It was great for all of us to get out there on some real dirt.”

The Utes won both games of their doubleheader on Saturday evening, beating Georgia State 9-0 and Portland State 8-0 to improve their record to 2-1 after a tournament-opening loss to No. 24 Notre Dame the day before. Due to a late start, it was after midnight by the time Utah wrapped up its game with PSU.

The Utes shook off Friday’s heartbreaking, extra-innings loss to the Irish and came out swinging against the Panthers. The Utes scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning, courtesy of Anissa Urtez, as Delilah Pacheco scored from third and Hannah Flippen scored from second on Urtez’s two-RBI single to left center.

In the third, the Utes piled it on the Panthers, scoring three more runs. Kristen Stewart doubled home Bridget Castro to make it 4-0, and Ally Dickman registered her first collegiate RBI to score Stewart from second. Pacheco would then score Dickman on a single and advanced to third on an error by Panther center fielder Brenna Skalski. The Utes would end the inning up 6-0.

In the fifth, Pacheco drove home her second run of the game, scoring fellow transfer Sarita Leon to put Utah up 7-0. In the next at-bat, Flippen blasted a two-run homer to left field to make it 9-0 Utah, invoking the mercy rule.

In the circle, Miranda Viramontes and Hailey Hilburn teamed up to pitch a one-hitter for the Utes, with Viramontes earning the win. The two had eight strikeouts between them.

About half an hour after she closed out Georgia State, Hilburn was back in the circle against Portland State. The freshman from Orange, Calif. was dominant, recording her first college win by allowing just two hits, striking out four and allowing no walks over four innings.

Utah was once again dominant on offense in the second leg of the doubleheader. The Utes got on the board in the first frame, with Pacheco scoring from second base on an error by Vikings second baseman Melissa Masters.

In the bottom of the third, Utah tacked on three more runs to their score. Portland State pitcher Meagan Hendrix (0-1) gave Stewart a base on balls with the bases loaded, leaving Pacheco to trot home for her second run of the game. Catcher Bella Secaira scored Castro and Urtez with a two-RBI single to give Utah a 4-0 lead.

Utah was relentless in its offensive assault, scoring three more runs in the fourth inning. Urtez scored Flippen and Dickman with a two-RBI single. Castro scored Urtez after signaling to left field to make it 7-0 in Utah’s favor.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the umpires would again call the game early because of the mercy rule. Urtez earned her third RBI of the contest after she scored Cordova from third to make the game 8-0.

On Valentine’s Day, the Utes split a pair of games against Fresno State and Boston College. Utah fell to Fresno State 2-0 to start the doubleheader on Sunday afternoon, with Donovan (0-2) going against Fresno State’s Jill Compton (3-0).

The two aces held the opposition scoreless through three innings, but the Bulldogs broke through in the bottom of the fourth. With runners on second and third, shortstop Whitney Smith laid down a bunt to score Lindsey Willmon. Christina Rodriguez scored from third on a fielder’s choice to give the Bulldogs their two runs.

Utah bounced back from the loss later in the day by beating Boston College 3-1.

The Utes struck first in the top of the second after Castro doubled in Aubrey Peterson, pinch running for Stewart. In the next inning, Dickman doubled down the left field line, scoring Stewart from first base to give Utah the two runs necessary to pull out the win.

On the defensive side of the ball, three Utah hurlers — Viramontes, Nieto and Kilburn — held the Eagles to just one run. Viramontes (2-0) got the start and win, while Hilburn recorded the first save of her career on the bump.

On Monday, the Utes wrapped up the tournament in Tempe with a highly anticipated matchup against No. 17 Kentucky. The game was an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, with Utah’s Donovan and Kentucky’s Kelsey Nunley combining to allow only five hits through the first five innings.

Donovan (0-3) pitched a near-perfect game, only allowing runners in scoring position three times in the game, and striking out seven Wildcat batters. For Kentucky, Nunley (2-0) was equally impressive. The senior only allowed three hits the entire game and allowed no runs.

In the top of the seventh, Utah nearly completed the upset when Stewart just missed a two-run homer, sending Cheek back to the warning track to make the catch.

In the bottom of the frame, Donovan walked Cheek, and Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson brought in Hannah Huffman to pinch run. Huffman advanced to second on a fielder’s choice, then advanced to third on freshman Kelsee Henson’s single.

With runners on the corners and Nunley up to bat, Donovan made her only mistake of the day, throwing a wild pitch in the dirt and bringing home Huffman for the winning run, as the Utes lost 1-0.

“We found out a lot of things we’re good and a lot of things we need to work on,” Donovan said.

Despite the loss to finish off the weekend, head coach Amy Hogue was happy with her team’s performance and looks forward to watching the players improve.

“We shut teams down the way that we thought we would,” Hogue said. “We haven’t quite gotten comfortable offensively yet, so that will certainly be a focus of ours this week as we prepare for our second weekend.”

j.coles@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JoeColesChrony