SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time in 29 years, the Utah softball team is going to the Women’s College World Series.
The Utes capitalized on two costly San Diego State errors, pounded out 11 hits, and beat the Aztecs in Game 3 of the NCAA Super Regionals, 7-2.
Utah is moving on to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 1994. Utah will open the Pac-12 foe Washington Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
“It was just an unreal feeling,” said winning pitcher Mariah Lopez. “I mean, we’ve never been here before. This has been our goal all year. That was just a huge relief, and it was just so much fun.”
After dropping the first game in the best-of-three series, Utah outscored the Aztecs in the final two games, 17-3.
“My team in the best,” said head coach Amy Hogue, who was a Utah player on the ’94 team. “Honestly, even if I was afraid, they made me not afraid to make a call or a move. They’re so easy to believe in because they believe in each other. They played for each other, and they played their guts out.”
After falling behind 1-0, the Utes took the lead with a four-run second inning. Abby Dayton tied the game with an RBI triple to left. Dayton and Haley Denning scored on a fielding error by San Diego State pitcher Allie Light.
Aliya Belarde drove home the fourth run of the inning with an RBI single to give Utah a 4-1 lead.
The Aztecs scored a run in the fourth to cut the deficit to two runs. But the Utes got that run back in the fifth on an error by SDSU shortstop Jillian Celis.
Halle Morris put the game out of reach with a two-run single in the sixth inning.
Mariah Lopez went five innings on the mound, striking out six batters. Sarah Ladd tossed the final two innings and got the final out on a groundout to third.
“I’m overwhelmed with emotions,” said first baseman Ellessa Bonstrom. “To take this team to Oklahoma City, and to spend my last year in Oklahoma City is a dream come true.”
A record crowd of 3,083 fans cheered the Utes on to this historic victory.
“I’m ecstatic,” said third baseman Julia Jimenez. “It feels unreal right now. All these fans coming here to support us, we had over three thousand today. It blows my mind.”
Utah will open the WCWS Thursday in Oklahoma City. The double-elimination tournament will conclude with a best-of-three championship series June 7th.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Washington, Stanford, Florida State, Alabama and Tennessee will join the Utes in Oklahoma City.