On Sunday, for the first time all season, Utah softball head coach Amy Hogue spoke to her team about the chance to win the regular season Pac-12 title for the first time in school history.
The Utes have been careful not to mention this possibility in conversations earlier this season because their motto is “What’s next?” and they want to focus all their efforts on the game right in front of them. Yet, after a 9-0 victory over Stanford to sweep the Cardinal, their eighth straight win, the Utes started thinking about what they need to do to win the Pac-12 title.
“We have put ourselves in the position to start talking about it and thinking about it and this was the first day that I told the team to start thinking about that,” Hogue said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position that, right now, it is up to us. We don’t have to hope that someone else beats someone else; everyone that is going to be in contention is on our schedule still.”
This weekend, Utah put on a show, decisively sweeping last-place Stanford. On Friday, the Utes and the Cardinal played a doubleheader in anticipation of rain Saturday.
Anissa Urtez went 3-for-3 with three runs, four RBIs and her second home run of the season — her first round-tripper at home — in Utah’s 13-0 dismantling of Stanford in the first game.
“It was really cool,” Uretz said. “It was just another normal hit that I needed to see the ball and it was just really cool. It was awesome.”
Utah started off the rout with two runs in the first inning, courtesy of Urtez’s two-run dinger. The Utes increased that lead to seven in the second inning, with RBIs from Hannah Flippen and Ally Dickman and an error by Stanford’s second baseman.
In the third, Bridget Castro scored on an illegal pitch, then Urtez brought home two more to increase the lead to 10. Maddie Roth hit a two-RBI double, and then Bella Secaria scored on Roth to give Utah a 13-0 advantage after three. On the other side of the ball, Katie Donovan and Hailey Hilburn combined to shut Stanford out for five innings, only allowing two hits.
“We came out swinging, had great at-bat’s against their No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers right out of the gates,” Hogue said. “Defensively, we had to make some plays and we did. I was proud of our start.”
The second game of the twin bill was a little more competitive. Utah held off a seventh inning rally by Stanford and eventually won 8-6. Kay Kay Fronda had a single, double and triple in addition to an RBI, and Urtez added two more RBIs. Kristen Stewart was also a big part of the win, driving in three runs.
Just like game one, Utah built a big lead in one inning. In the third, the Utes scored seven runs with RBIs from Urtez, Stewart, Secaira and Fronda. Stanford scored two in the fourth, the first runs of the series for the Cardinal. Utah increased the lead to six on a RBI from Flippen in the bottom of the sixth inning. In the seventh, Stanford scored four, but Hilburn struck out Haley Snyder for the third out of the game. Even though Stanford had closed the gap, Hogue wasn’t too nervous.
Utah wrapped up the series on Sunday with another shutout of Stanford, winning 9-0. The Utes scored all nine runs in the first inning, batting around before the Cardinal got its first out. Dickman had three RBIs and a double with the bases loaded in the victory.
“I’ve been working on swinging at my pitches, so when I got deeper in the count I knew that I was going to get a good pitch and I just wanted to get a hit,” Dickman said.
In the first, the Utes scored nine runs on eight hits and an error, with RBIs from Urtez, Dickman, Shelby Pacheco and Fronda. On the defensive side of the ball, Donovan and Viramontes combined for a two-hitter.
“In all my years coaching and playing, I’ve never been a part of a first inning where the lineup didn’t make an out,” Hogue said. “That is pretty impressive to start like that. That really shows how talented this team is and that they are going after a really special thing.”
Up next, the Utes travel to Seattle, Wash. for a three game series against the Washington Huskies, April 29 to May 1.