Newly ranked No. 25 Utah softball lost both games of its series against No. 13 UCLA over the weekend, with the third game being cancelled due to rain on Sunday.
The Bruins outscored the Utes 23-7 over the pair of games, dropping the Utes’ overall record to 31-17, and 12-8 in Pac-12 play.
Despite a good turnout from the offense in the first game, which scored seven runs on eight hits in the series opener, the Ute defense failed to match that performance and allowed the most runs by any opponent in a game this year. The Utes dropped the game 15-7 Friday night at Dumke Softball Stadium.
“We’re going to have a hard time stopping them if we give them extra outs every inning,” said head coach Amy Hogue. “We gave them extra outs by walking people and making errors.”
UCLA came out of the gates hot, scoring three runs on an error by Ute centerfielder Delilah Pacheco to take a three run lead in the first inning. Utah responded in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer from Hannah Flippen, her 13th of the season.
During the second, the Bruins exploded for five runs on five hits, chasing starter Miranda Viramontes from the game after taking an 8-2 lead. Hailey Kilburn stepped in and sat the Bruins down 1-2-3 in the third inning and the Utes capitalized on the first scoreless inning by UCLA. They scored five runs in the frame off a three run homer by Anissa Urtez, RBI triple by Kristen Stewart, and RBI single by Heather Bowen to cut the Bruin lead to 8-7.
In the fourth, Hilburn and the Utes held UCLA to only one hit – a Gabrielle Maurice RBI triple – and it seemed that Hilburn had found her rhythm. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Utah was held scoreless, but was still within two runs of the 13th best team in the nation entering the fifth.
Disaster struck the Utes in the fifth. UCLA batter Zoe Shaw rocketed the ball back to Hilburn, which nailed her in the leg. Hilburn got up, but was done for the day.
“That’s going to leave quite a mark, it hit [Hailey] right in the leg,” Hogue said. “It happened to be right in the spot where her glove hits the side of her body when she pitches. It was just going to get worse every time she hit it with her glove.”
With Viramontes and Hilburn done for the day and Katie Donovan resting for Saturday, Hogue brought in Sammy Cordova to pitch. Before Saturday, Cordova had only pitched eight innings.
UCLA seized the opportunity, rocking Cordova for six runs in the fifth. Three home runs from Musha Sataraka and Brianna Tautalafua gave the Bruins a 15-7 lead. Utah failed to score in the bottom of the fifth, and after almost three hours of play, UCLA came away with the victory.
On Saturday, the Utes fell for the second straight game against the Bruins, 8-0. Unlike Friday, when Utah’s offense scored seven runs in five innings, the Utes could not get anything going, only managing three hits in six innings.
“I think our confidence is going down,” Hogue said. “We’ve struggled offensively a bunch in the last couple of weeks. I think hitting is contagious, and so is not hitting.”
UCLA struck first with a solo home run from Delaney Spaulding. In the second, Tautalafua singled home Madeline Jelenicki to increase the Bruins’ lead to 2-0. Utah starting pitcher Donovan held the Bruins scoreless in the third in what would end up being UCLA’s only scoreless inning of the night.
Urtez said that UCLA’s pitcher on Saturday, Selina Ta’amilo, was tough to hit.
“They’re a really good team and we knew that coming in it would take a whole team effort,” Urtez said. “Gotta give it to them, their pitcher did a great job and we didn’t execute the way we thought we would.”
In the fourth inning, the Bruins tacked on two more runs via an Allexis Bennett RBI triple and Kylee Perez RBI single. In the fifth inning, Tautalafua hit a three run homer to put UCLA up seven. In the sixth, Perez went yard to give the Bruins an 8-0 lead.
“We need to flip everything we’re doing. I don’t recognize the team that I’m coaching right now, for the last two days they haven’t been themselves,” Hogue said. “I think some of them are trying too hard, some of them have felt hopeless since they’ve struggled for the last four or five games.”
Aside from the fact that the Utes were unable to redeem themselves Sunday because of the rain, they were unable to host Senior Day which would have honored seniors Kayce Nieto, Shelby Pacheco, and Kristen Stewart.
Utah’s final regular season series is against No. 3 Oregon, May 12-14 in Eugene.