Softball: Utes’ rally falls short in loss to BYU, doubleheader with SUU looms

Utah Softball vs. CSU Justin Adams

Despite a valiant comeback effort, the Utah softball team lost 5-4 against in-state rival BYU in its home opener at Dumke Stadium on Tuesday.

“It was pretty hard [to lose], especially because we were fighting really hard at the end,” said pitcher Miranda Viramontes. “We just couldn’t get that last run, so it just sucks.”

Before the game, both the Utes and the Cougars were loose. Utah danced to the pre-game music while BYU played hacky-sack five minutes before first pitch.

In the first inning, the Cougars threatened with runners on first and second with two outs, but Madison Merrell flied out to Kay Kay Fronda, ending the top half. In Utah’s half, Delilah Pacheco drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With one out, Flippen nearly brought her home, smashing a ball that required Caitlyn Larsen to go back to the warning track to make the out.

In the second inning, Katie Donavan took care of business, and Kristen Stewart made an amazing grab on a drive down the third-base line to end the frame. McKenna Bull put the Utes down in order to end the second scoreless.

After holding BYU scoreless in the third, Utah got its first hit, courtesy of Shelby Pacheco, but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

The Cougars got their first run in the fourth inning, after a throw from home to first in an attempt to complete a double play was off, allowing Coco Bond to cross home for BYU. Utah threatened in the bottom of the frame, when Anissa Urtez reached second base after Merrell let a ball drop in shallow right field, but yet again, the Utes couldnt’t capitalize, leaving Urtez stranded.

Utah head coach Amy Hogue was disappointed in the missed opportunities by the Ute offense, which went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

“We will never beat a good team if we don’t find a way to make adjustments offensively earlier in the game,” Hogue said.

In the fifth, the Cougars had a runner on third with one out after a triple by Ashley Thompson. But Donovan and the Ute defense locked down, getting a strikeout and a spectacular 6-3 putout by Urtez to keep the game at 1-0.

BYU added two more in the sixth inning after a two-run triple by Gordy Bravo, who had struck out three straight times before hitting the triple. Katie Donovan was pulled in the frame, when Hogue brought on Viramontes for her second relief appearance.

As snow fell in the sixth inning, the Utes’ offense caught fire. After an Urtez double, Bowen followed suit with her own double to bring home Urtez and cut the deficit to two. Hailey Hilburn, pinch-hitting for Bridget Castro, hit a fly ball to deep center, bringing home Bowen from third to make it just 3-2.

Going into the seventh inning, it felt like the Utes had all the momentum. But then BYU’s Libby Sugg blasted a two-run homer to left field, giving the Cougars a 5-2 lead.

“I can’t remember if I hit my spot or if I missed my spot, I just know that she’s a really good hitter,” Viramontes said. “I was just trying to hit my spots, and she just got a hold of one.”

In their last inning, the Utes rallied again, pulling within one after a Flippen sacrifice fly that scored Delilah Pacheco and an error by Thompson that brought home Stewart. With Urtez on third and two outs, Ally Dickman pinch-hit for Castro but grounded out to third base to end the game.

The Utes will try and shake this loss and prepare for Southern Utah, which rolls into town for a doubleheader on Wednesday, March 16. The Thunderbirds are 3-23 and are mired in a 17-game losing streak. SUU’s leading batter is pitcher Jordan Theurer, who is batting .335 with five doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs.

The Thunderbirds have weak pitching, giving up 7.7 runs per game on average. Their two top pitchers are Theurer, who has a 7.61 ERA in 47.1 innings pitched, and Hanna Wynn, who has a 7.96 ERA in 26 innings pitched.

Utah hopes a sweep of the Thunderbirds in their last non-conference games will help them enter Pac-12 play with some momentum.

“We have a plan already. We talked about going into tomorrow’s games and fixing the things we struggled with today — adjusting earlier in the game to the pitchers and throwing more strikes as a pitching staff,” Hogue said. “We’ll turn around and get those things done tomorrow so that going into the start of Pac-12 they can figure out how to turn this ship around.”

The Utes battle Southern Utah at Dumke Stadium tomorrow at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. MT.

j.coles@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JoeColesChrony